Amir Bhogal, owner of Pyramid Pharmacy Group and pharmacist at their Enfield branch, talks to Saša Janković about offering blood tests through running a private phlebotomy service.

Service type: Phlebotomy

Name and location of pharmacy: Pyramid Pharmacy, Hertford Road, Enfield

Name of pharmacist: Amir Bhogal

Why did you start offering this service?

Over the last year and a half it’s been really hard for patients to get access to hospitals for blood tests, or to book in for them with their GP, but of course community pharmacies were the only healthcare provider which stayed open. We had lots of people asking if we could do really basic blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure checks for them as they couldn’t get them elsewhere. We realised that if patients were happy to pay for these then perhaps we could also offer a wider range of tests for checking things like thyroid function as well. We started the service in May 2021.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

Actually nothing. The lab we use offered us free phlebotomy training for our staff members, and they supply the kits for free as well – but it benefits them because the more we use them the more they make from their fee for processing the tests.

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

We offer this service in most of our branches, and in this branch it’s our technician who trained up as the phlebotomist.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

There are two ways for patients to book in for the service with us. Either they come in and speak to us in the pharmacy and we book them in, or they can book a slot via the Patient Access app – although that only really works for English speaking patients, and Enfield has a more diverse population than that.

We draw the blood into a sample bottle and the lab sends a courier to collect it. The patient will get the results within 48 hours, which will have been reviewed by a team of GPs on the lab side who give recommendations based on those results. The patient can choose for us to get a copy of the results as well, and they can come and in and speak to us about them and what might help. We can also email the results to their GP if they like, which can save the NHS money as they don’t have to be referred on for a secondary NHS blood test, and the patient can then follow up with their GP if they want more advice from them.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

Depending on the results, we can give advice on products such as vitamins and supplements that can help, as well as smoking cessation and other services that might be of benefit.

How have patients responded to the service?

We are still getting up and running with this service, but patients who have used it so far are pleased with the convenience and speed of the results, as well as the thorough report they get from the lab GPs.

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

It’s very early stages for us, so at the moment we are seeing about 2-3 patients a month, but it is picking up the more people know about it.

How much do you charge for the service?

It depends on the test. Prices range from £35-£160.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Absolutely. Most patients aren’t just getting checked out from curiosity, it’s because they have symptoms and are finding that their GP is not being responsive enough. Plus the speed with which we get the results is hugely important – when you want to find out if something is wrong you don’t want to wait two weeks for your results, so our fast turnaround time is reassuring for patients as well.

From a healthcare perspective, we have to look at patients’ needs as the most important thing, and there is definitely a massive need for this kind of service.