With now the time to prepare for the annual flu season, Ade Williams, superintendent pharmacist at the multi-award-winning Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol, tells Valeria Fiore his secrets for leading a successful vaccination service.
At Bedminster Pharmacy, we would typically vaccinate around six to 10 people a day at the beginning of the flu season. That number increases when the weather gets colder and during the coldest months of the year – we can do up to 20 vaccinations a day.
Every year, we successfully increase the number of eligible patients that get the flu vaccine by about 20%.
In order to deliver an effective NHS commissioned flu vaccination service, we focus on three key things:
1. Raising awareness
First, we raise local awareness of the importance of flu vaccination, especially among the low uptake group in the targeted population.
This group typically includes pregnant patients, patients who have respiratory conditions but are of working age and unpaid carers who may be at risk from the flu.
We do different things to raise awareness, such as radio shows, some TV spots as well as writing in local publications. We have also done live flu vaccinations on the BBC morning show.
2. Collaborating with other services
We ask ourselves how we can improve our service by reflecting on what we have done already.
We try to synergise our message with other projects that are going on locally. For example, the physiotherapy team runs a respiratory rehabilitation programme in one of our local sport centres, which offers us the perfect occasion to reach out to that part of the population and explain to them why the flu vaccination is important.
We also have a nursery a few doors away from our pharmacy, so I would go in there to raise awareness on things such as the anti-vax messages that sometimes pop-up on social media.
3. Collaborating with healthcare professionals
We work with other healthcare professionals that are involved in the flu vaccination programme, usually GP services but midwives too. The latter tend not to provide the flu vaccination service themselves, but they see a lot of pregnant patients, and are good at reminding them that they can get the flu jab immediately if they go see a pharmacist.
We have to make sure we work in synergy with GP surgeries rather than in a competitive way. Our aim is to increase uptake, but by competing, you are not able to harmonise your message and achieve that goal.
We talk with them about what our different strategies to achieve that common goal are, we discuss how we are going to manage stock because sometimes we might run out of vaccines and people are less likely to take up the flu vaccination when they are not reminded to.
We work together to harmonise our messages and look at areas of possible conflict that could arise when people cancel appointments, for instance. We are part of a collective effort.
We’ve never really experienced any animosity with GP practices because we’ve always worked in a different way.
You can create this culture by taking charge of the situation. You go out, meet people, build relationships, which allows you to articulate why, as a pharmacy, you are commissioned to deliver the service – which is to help expand flu vaccine uptake. If we improve uptake, that means that we will equally be financially successful while improving our population health.
The flu vaccination service places us right at the centre of our community. Our reach is incomparable, but we must really do it in a way that gives us credibility as healthcare professionals, not just trying to grab a market share. That would be, in the long run, quite detrimental to the relationship we have to build with other healthcare professionals in our community.