Neil Gathani, superintendent and owner pharmacist at Caledonian Pharmacy in north London, talks to Saša Janković about his weight loss clinic.

Service type: Weight loss clinic

Name and location of pharmacy: Caledonian Pharmacy, London N7

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Neil Gathani

Why did you start offering this service?

There was a period in my life where I wasn’t as healthy as I could have been. At the height of the pandemic I was working 16-hour days to keep on top of everything, and then I became a dad for first time and I wasn’t prioritising myself. I’d put on a lot of weight, and I knew I had to make some changes for myself, despite actually being quite a fitness fanatic. Health is wealth, and I knew that if this was an issue for me I wasn’t going to be the only person in this situation.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

We started this service in June 2022. The initial cost was for the annual fee for the PGDs from PharmaDoctor. We have the ultimate package from them which includes travel and vaccination clinics, weight loss – we offer our customers the Saxenda weight loss injection – and all their other PGDs.

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

You have to ensure that you are fully competent to offer the Saxenda injection service and I have worked directly with the manufacturers to do so. My staff are also fully aware of all the services we do so they will refer customers to me, where appropriate.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

Customers have to make an initial appointment, where I go through a checklist to evaluate them at that moment in time. It’s mainly a lifestyle questionnaire to see how losing weight will benefit them emotionally and physically, or for some people it’s to prepare for an event such as getting married.

The Saxenda programme works out at around £715 for 12 weeks so it is also quite a financial commitment for people. I’m a big fan of commitment so I don't want someone to sign up; not stick with it and then feel they’ve wasted so much money, which is why I do the initial consultation and then rebook them in for the first session after that.

I offer different packages so they can decide how best they can incorporate the weight loss program into their lives. If I feel someone needs more support I’ll see them once a week, or if work commitments and so on mean they can’t do every week I’ll see them once a fortnight instead. I have an Omron scanner which measures visceral fat, percentage body fat, how many calories you need to maintain weight, as well as weight, and I make myself fully available to the patient as I want them to know I am there are a resource for them, and they can come in any time they are feeling low and I’ll get them back on the right track.

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

Education about food is so powerful these days and so important. We keep lots of healthy food in the pharmacy, nutritional powders, supplements and so on, and we coach our weight loss patients on what to look for in the supermarket and what to avoid. If, for 12 weeks, they follow my advice about changing their diet and lifestyle, it becomes about more than just weight loss – it’s a transformation of how they relate to food and health.

How have patients responded to the service?

People mainly hear about the service through word of mouth – if one parent at the school gates loses weight then we start to see others come in and ask about it.

Part of my evaluation of a patient initially finds those not ready to commit, so the majority of people we’ve seen have been fairly successful in losing weight – and a significant amount. But it’s them changing their lifestyle in the long run that is more of a success for me. We’ve seen patients who have changed the way they eat and got their whole family involved. My aim is that I don’t ever see them again.

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

We’ve had about seven or eight patients who have completed the programme since we started offering it.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, for sure, as long as you have your infrastructure in place. You need to sign up to the PGD, but the real success is when you position it as a holistic approach to what being healthy is. For example, I've partnered with a personal trainer to create exercise plans, and with a nutritionist who offers keto diets, plus I tell patients what supplements they can take that will help.

Whenever you offer any service, you need to consider what your patients need from start to finish, and have a good idea of what people feel during the journey.

The last few years have shown that prevention is way better than treatment, and we can all stay on point by looking after several key things in life – exercising in nature, the right type of sleep and correct nutrition. These are all mentally, physically and emotionally important to help keep us at full fitness to cope with what's happening in our lives today.