Claire Field, pharmacist and IP at Carbis Bay Pharmacy in Cornwall, talks to Saša Janković about running a flu vaccination service.

Service type: NHS flu vaccination.

Name of pharmacy: Carbis Bay Pharmacy, Cornwall.

Name of pharmacist: Claire Field.

Why did you start offering this service?

We started the service up back in 2015, as soon as the NHS started commissioning community pharmacies to do it. We knew when we started that there was – and even more so at the moment – a clear drive to increase the uptake of flu vaccinations, and felt we were in a strong position to support the NHS with this. We are also a very service-orientated pharmacy and always keen to get on board with any commissioned services. In addition, because we are at least two miles from the nearest GP practice we fall under the Pharmacy Access Scheme. Plus, our premises are ideal for our many elderly customers who can’t easily get to their local surgery, because we have parking right outside and electronic doors into the pharmacy, which makes us a convenient location for them to come and get their flu vaccination.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

Every year up until now we’ve run our flu vaccinations as a walk-in service, because we wanted to make it as easy for as many people as possible to access it. However, we’ve had to change that this year because although we are not a tiny pharmacy we are not massive either, so in order to enable social distancing we have made it a bookable service at 15 minute intervals so appointments are not overlapping. We know that some of our customers – especially our older ones – are feeling quite nervous about coming in, and we have certainly had some who have told us that coming for their flu jab is the first time they’ve left the house since lockdown began. We are able to reassure them that we’ve made some adjustments in the pharmacy to free up more space and create a one-way system around the pharmacy, and that having timed slots gives us the time to deep clean the consultation room between appointments.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

I’m not sure of the exact amount. In theory, it’s not a lot of cost to the pharmacy, but you do have to get yellow bins and Epipens.

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

I’ve done the vaccination training. In the past this had to be a practical face-to-face session every three years, plus the theory as well, but this year that’s been waived so as long as you’ve done the practical training you just needed to refresh the theory. This year the requirement for customers to sit and fill in the consent form before their appointment has also gone, in order to cut down the time they have to spend in the pharmacy, so we have made sure our staff know how to prepare the forms and gather the customer’s information themselves instead. Our staff are also asking customers to use hand sanitiser when they come in, and so far, people are being really good about that.

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

Flu vaccinations aren’t really the time to do that. In previous years I used to do an MUR after the vaccination if I thought it was appropriate, but I haven’t this year as I don’t want to be in a room with someone for too long. Having said that, we are seeing some people who haven’t left the house for months so when they are in the consulting room they do start talking about any other health concerns they might have.

How have patients responded to the service?

Our customers are delighted that we offer this service, although we do get a lot of the older generation who ask me if I’m a nurse just working here for the day to do flu jabs, so I always explain that I’m the pharmacist and that there are lots of healthcare professionals who are trained to do vaccinations now. People love the fact they don’t have to go into St Ives where the main surgery is, and we offer a wide choice of appointment times to try to accommodate as many people as possible.

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

In a normal flu season we would do about 500-600 vaccinations, but I think demand is going to be even greater this year. We placed our order for the vaccines back in February and they were delivered quite early this year, so we already did a lot in September.

How much do you charge for the service?

We made the decision this year not to offer a private service because we think demand for vaccinations is going to outstrip our supply, so we want to prioritise people in the at-risk and clinically vulnerable groups first, and they don’t have to pay.

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

It really depends on how many vaccinations we do in a month, but it’s the standard fee per jab that you’d expect.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, definitely. We are not the busiest pharmacy in terms of dispensing workload and we don’t get many walk ins but it can still be a juggle being in the consultation room if you don’t have a checking technician – which we don’t. It’s a challenging few months during flu season, but I would definitely recommend running this service – just make sure you have good support staff as you’re going to need all hands on deck.