Olutayo Arikawe, superintendent pharmacist at Priory Pharmacy in Dudley, talks to Saša Janković about running a flu vaccination service.

Service type: Flu vaccination.

Name and location of pharmacy: Priory Pharmacy, Dudley.

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Olutayo Arikawe.

Why did you start offering this service?

I first trained to offer flu vaccinations in 2009, and we’ve been offering the service here at Priory Pharmacy since shortly after I joined eight years ago.

Like so many people, I know that when I have to see my GP for anything it often involves taking half the day off work, which is inconvenient – and getting a flu jab is no different. Priory Pharmacy is very community focused, so I knew right from the start that flu vaccination would be exactly the kind of service we should be offering our customers because they can easily access it without having to disrupt the rest of their day.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

We offer bookable appointments for NHS and private flu vaccinations, as well as leaving some room to accommodate walk ups. We use the preconsult facility in PharmOutcomes for people who are booking, and there is a leaflet with a barcode that sets out what to do before they arrive, as well as what they need to know about the flu jab. We ask them to wear loose clothing and not to bring any bags in with them so we can make it as smooth an in-and-out process as possible for them, and for us too.

When the customer arrives for their jab my staff make sure they are seated and ready before the pharmacist goes in to the consultation room, so all we have to do is give the injection and then clean down all the surfaces ready for the next person, which makes it as quick as possible and keeps safety paramount. No one has complained about the process so far, as they know we are doing it to protect them. We are lucky that we have more than one entrance to the pharmacy, so people coming in for their flu jab come in one door, one at a time, have their jab and then leave through the other side of the pharmacy.

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

A lot of my patients now are people who first came to us for a flu jab and were so impressed with the service they decided to sign up to our pharmacy because of that. The footfall in pharmacy is reducing in general due to Covid-19 because people don’t want to stay to long in the shop – especially old people who are nervous – so I make sure they know they can call us for whatever they need, and we now accept secure payment over the phone as we understand that people don’t want to come in.

How have patients responded to the service?

They love it! I remember one patient, for example, who said she’s been coming since we started the service and wouldn’t allow anyone to vaccinate her other than me! I’ve also vaccinated our mayor, Cllr David Stanley, as well as the MP for Dudley North, Marco Longhi.

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

In the first three days we vaccinated over 60 patients, but I don’t think anyone should be boasting about how many flu jabs they’ve done. It’s not about numbers, it’s about patient care and quality of service.

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

Most of our return comes from the NHS but I don’t think we should be thinking about the flu vaccination service in commercial terms – pharmacy needs to be better remunerated overall for what we do. We wondered about increasing the cost of our private vaccination, and all our private prescriptions, but we are conservative about it because we think that, ideally, health care should be free, and if it’s not then as many people as possible should be able to afford it, especially now with Covid-19. What’s important is patient care, and the fewer barriers to that, the better.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Definitely. Pharmacists are not just about dispensing, it’s about the service we provide to our communities. Patients love community pharmacies, and when you take care of the community they take care of you because they appreciate the value of you. I see patients as people, not just numbers. They are important to me, and I just want to help.