Sunil K Kochhar explains how his pharmacy has set up a successful flu vaccination service, ahead of this year's expanded programme.

Name of pharmacy: Regent Pharmacy, Kent.

Name of pharmacist: Sunil K Kochhar.

Why did you start offering the service?

We’ve been offering the service for over 10 years. We usually start services when the demand is high from patients in our community. We start by running our own in-house pilot schemes, before we fully invest. The flu service pilot scheme took off massively, people in our community really appreciated it.

We also began offering it some time before the NHS started to commission pharmacies to do it. We used to only do a handful of private vaccinations, then it got to a point where we had quite a lot of patients using it - mainly people who could have gone to their GP to get an NHS jab but choose to come to us instead because it was just more convenient. As soon as it became available on the NHS our numbers fell. However, it's obviously great that more pharmacies can now offer the service.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

Not a lot, the real cost comes from any flu vaccines we end up wasting because they don’t get used. We need to know what our limitations are in terms of quantity in order to save money.

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

Pharmacists need to undergo training for CPT vaccination communication skills - we have to do a PGD training for delivery of the NHS-commissioned service.

Pharmacy teams also need basic life support and intramuscular injection training, as well as an understanding of how to look after people with anaphylaxis and allergic reactions.

The pharmacy staff - who tend to do this more than the actual pharmacist - need to understand the logistics from the patient's point of view, from walking in, filling in the forms and getting an evaluation. They also need to be able to set up the room for the pharmacist and get the vaccinations ready, and be able to talk to patients about aftercare.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

The service involves screening people to see whether they are eligible for the vaccine on the NHS, or private patients.  We check that it's safe for the patient to have the vaccine by checking for possible allergic reactions. Then, we simply inject into the deltoid muscle and give aftercare information.

Most people who get the flu jab have it regularly every year and therefore know what to expect. If it's a person coming in for the first time - which we expect we will see more of this year - then we would go a bit more in depth about what to expect afterwards including what could and couldn't happen, and just spend a bit longer making sure the patient has enough information to give informed consent.

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

We can offer self-care advice, such as looking after and building immunity with supplements. But the main thing is that if patients do get any symptoms, they know how to treat them with over the counter products. We educate our patients on medications, so that they can purchase something to keep at home in case they fall ill during the night, a bank holiday, or over Christmas when services are less available.

We can also offer the pneumonia vaccine privately through pharmacy, which I think is an added benefit this year with Covid-19 circulating.

How have patients responded to the service?

The patients love it because it's so convenient. They can fit it into their normal day-to-day routine, alongside their shopping. Pharmacy is very accessible, most people can find one within a 10 minute walk of their household. Not everyone can afford to get a taxi or bus to their GP, and many don’t have the time to visit one.

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

We carry out the service regularly between September until the end of March because it's a seasonal service. However, the majority of vaccinations happen between September and November.

How much do you charge for the service?

This year we are charging private patients £14.99 for a flu vaccination. We usually offer the vaccination for around £12 but the extra Covid-19-related costs of cleaning and PPE mean we have to bump up the price a bit.

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

Usually £4-£5 per jab.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Absolutely, 100%. Every community pharmacy should offer a flu vaccination service unless you don't have the right facilities such as a consultation room, private area or hand washing station.