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Flu service: ‘It became clear to me that it is our professional responsibility to offer this’


By Saša Janković

22 Feb 2021

Pharmacist Dai Williams tells Saša Janković why he decided to set up a flu vaccination service at Central Pharmacy in Pentre, Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Service type: Flu vaccination service.

Name of pharmacy: Central Pharmacy, Pentre, Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Name of pharmacist: Dai Williams, IP and Community Pharmacy Wales Board member.

Why did you start offering this service?

I started offering this service four years ago. My pharmacy colleagues locally had started earlier than me, but I initially decided not to do it myself because I didn’t want to antagonise the GPs. In the early days flu vaccination still wasn’t a big service for community pharmacy, and I didn’t know a lot about it in terms of uptake and numbers, so I didn’t think it was worth potentially falling out with local GPs for the sake of what I felt was such a small service. However, as demand grew in pharmacies over time, it became clear to me that it was our professional responsibility to offer it, and of course flu is part of a range of services we are encouraging people to use pharmacy for as a first port of call in the NHS.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

It didn’t cost us anything. We have a very small pharmacy here so we had already lost some retail space to make room for our two consulting rooms, but that’s the way forward as we have to get rid of the image of pharmacy as a retail outlet. It’s not – it’s a healthcare provider.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?

Like all pharmacists in Wales, you have to do your National Enhanced Services Accreditation (NESA) training for all services, plus your two-yearly flu updates and basic life support training.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

We offer appointments as well as walk-ups for the flu service, which is the beauty of community pharmacy. I say if someone wants a flu jab, there is no time like the present.

We usually run a private flu vaccination service alongside the NHS one, but I decided not to do any private patients this year because we simply don’t have enough vaccine supply to meet that demand. We haven’t got enough to do the vulnerable, so justifying vaccinating someone else – even if it is at their own expense – didn’t sit well with me. I haven’t even had my own flu jab yet.

So far this season we’ve also only vaccinated the over-65s, because although we placed our order in October 2019 for delivery this September, I still haven’t received my delivery for the under-65s.

Are there any opportunities to sell over the counter or prescription products during the consultation or after it?

I don’t use it as an opportunity to sell anything, but you do get 10 minutes with the patient so it’s a chance to have a chat about other health concerns such as smoking, diet or blood pressure control, and what we can do to help.

How have patients responded to the service?

Our customers like it because it’s walk-in, convenient, and always accessible. There is a move to have bigger GP surgeries and more modern health centres which is great, but these are generally out of town which makes them harder to access for many people. Certainly Andrew Evans, the chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, wants every community to be able to access healthcare where they live, and this is where community pharmacies come into their own.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

In an average flu season we usually do about 300-400 vaccinations, but by mid-October this year we had already done 260, and demand is double that.

How much do you charge for the service?

Privately, we were charging £10.

Roughly how much a month do you make from offering the service?

Normally 300 vaccination over two months would make about £4k, but that’s gross, and you have to price the pharmacist’s time into that as well.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

I think there is a desire in Wales to make sure all pharmacy contractors offer flu vaccinations, and the contractual framework financially incentivises contractors who do offer a range of services, not just flu.

Supply gives us footfall on a daily basis but if we are wedded to supply alone we won’t survive, so we have to change what we do. The move in community pharmacy is towards services, and the whole CPW board is committed to this service agenda, even though it can be difficult with the balance of funding and remuneration. Life is about building bridges and relationships, which is something I see very clearly in our pharmacy: we do about 11k prescriptions a month and it’s very rare that I see someone I don’t know.

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