Pharmacist and IP Gareth Hughes talks to Saša Janković about running a period delay service at Sheppards Pharmacy in Aberdare, Wales.

Service type: Period delay service.

Name of pharmacy: Sheppards Pharmacy, Whitcombe Street, Aberdare.

Name of pharmacists: Gareth Hughes and Neil Jones.

Why did you start offering this service?

We started offering this service 18 months ago. We found we were getting frequent queries from women who wanted to buy something to delay their periods in anticipation of going on holiday, other travel or special occasions, taking part in sports events, or ahead of scheduled operations. This wasn’t something we offered, but our customers told us they would buy the product online if they couldn’t get it locally. We felt that even if this was from a reputable source we still had concerns about the safe use of the product if it was supplied that way, so Neil (Jones, pharmacy manager) and I thought we’d try offering this service ourselves to see how it went.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

We explain to the customer what the service is, and that we need to take them through a screening and risk assessment questionnaire to check their eligibility criteria and explain the risks.

The safety aspect is the most important part of this service, so as well as making sure they fit the age criteria the screening questions find out if they’ve had any previous allergic reactions, if they are pregnant or breast feeding, what their kidney function is like, if they have blood clotting or heart issues – including in their family – as well as if they have high BP or high cholesterol, and what other medications they taking from their GP and OTC.

Next, we make them aware of the risks around blood clots, advising them how these can present and that they must seek immediate medical attention – which is why I like offering this service in the pharmacy because we all know how easy it is to skip through reading this kind of information when you are ordering things online, or just ignore it entirely.

If they meet the criteria, we can supply norethisterone 5mg to women age 15-50 to postpone a menstrual period in special circumstances. At the moment [in 2020] we can do the consultation over the phone, and the customer can come in and collect the medicine afterwards.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

The set-up cost was quite nominal. We did our online training through the NPA at around £35, plus there is the cost of one PGD each per year for Neil and me.

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

It was really important for us tohave the entire pharmacy team involved so we spoke to them all about who the service was for and what it entails, as well as showing them the questionnaire and risk assessment.

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

There are – often because the request for period delay is because the customer is due to travel or go on holiday, so we can advise them on sun protection, OTC products, first aid and so on. We also run a travel health service so we can talk them through the appropriate vaccinations and antimalarials, if that’s what they need.

How have patients responded to the service?

We have definitely had a great response. Customers appreciate the convenience, and that there’s no waiting time, and they value the safety netting our service provides. Our local GPs like it too, and are happy to refer patients in to us.

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

When the service first started it was in the summer and we were doing about 40 to 50 consultations a month. For the rest of the year we tick over with maybe 10 a month, but we do get repeat customers, as well as those who’ve previously accessed the product elsewhere from their GP or online.

How much do you charge for the service?

We charge £20-25 depending on how many days’ supply is needed. One pack covers 10 days’ worth and that’s £20 including consultation, or it’s £25 for 17 days.

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

We make about £800 a month in peak season.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, I would definitely recommend it. The initial outlay is small and it’s a service that we know patients want. Pharmacists can make it as safe as possible because of the risk assessment, and certainly in our area our local GPs and customers have responded to it really well.