Dimple Bhatia, superintendent pharmacist at Tollesbury Pharmacy in Essex, talks to Saša Janković about running a flu vaccination service.

Service type: Flu vaccination.

Name of pharmacy: Tollesbury Pharmacy, Essex.

Name of pharmacist: Dimple Bhatia.

Why did you start offering this service? 

We have been offering a flu vaccination service for the last 10 years, starting in September and running until about March, depending on clinical need. 

There has been a marked erosion of NHS pharmacy income, even in my 23 years of pharmacy, so I began evaluating how I was spending my time many years ago.

As the owner of the pharmacy I stepped outside my shoes and considered whether, if I was an employee, I would be able to justify my time/profit ratio to my employer at my appraisal. So much time is spent chasing a few pennies off a box of omeprazole that I decided to look at services. It’s clear that services such as flu vaccinations are both profitable and enhance professional satisfaction, as well as strengthening the standing of community pharmacy as true healthcare professionals. 

In a nutshell, what does the service involve? 

Our service has two independent parts: the NHS and Private. As flu vaccinations are POM you need to sign up to a PGD before you can run the service, which will specify the training required, equipment requirements and, essentially, the requirements of the service as well as what records need to be kept. The NHS PGD is provided by NHSE and you can pick any provider for the private flu vaccinations. We’ve partnered with PharmaDoctor who offer an excellent product with e-tool, an online booking-in platform that avoids handling paper and allows customers to give verbal consent avoiding signatures, pens and paper – something which our patients tell us they have appreciated in the current Covid environment. 

How much did it cost to set up the service? 

The service cost less than £500 to set up. However, things to bear in mind are vaccination and CPR training, cost of the private PGD, resuscitation mask, adrenaline amps and syringes/needles and sharps bin, and this year – because of Covid-19 – we also purchased a vaccination screen. 

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

I undertook a face-to-face vaccination training and CPR training refresher course in the last two years. I have revisited the Declaration of Competence on the CPPE website, and I read through all my PGDs and signed then off. We also had a briefing with our team and they undertook a Numark online flu jab training course. 

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

We have been extremely busy giving flu vaccinations this year and the onus has been on getting people in and out. Nonetheless, it has been a great opportunity to catch up with MURs. 

How have patients responded to the service? 

We have had a tremendous response to the service this year with many positive comments on our Twitter and Facebook feeds. We’ve also gone 100% paperless this year, encouraging our patients to complete the online flu vaccination form before they come in. Patients love the walk in service and this is our USP – no appointments, complete the online form, jab and go. The Perspex vaccination screen is certainly a talking point and it shows that we care, and we take the health of our patients and staff seriously. It has reassured people who may have been nervous about coming into the pharmacy and having a flu jab at all this year. 

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

We run our flu service from September through to February, and we will probably do around 400 vaccinations during this time, although I have heard of colleagues doing over 1,000 jabs in a season. 

How much do you charge for the service? 

We charge £15 for the private service. 

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

We can make about £500 to £600 a month from offering flu vaccinations. It also brings in new customers so there are opportunities for talking and showcasing the pharmacy and our other services at the same time. 

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors? 

Yes, yes, yes! I’m always surprised when I hear that people aren’t offering it. Pharmacists need to move forward. I would like to see two pharmacists in every pharmacy. Let’s ditch the makeup, toys and jewellery; skill up and promote our professional services. The public trust us so the question is, why do we doubt ourselves? 

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