Caroline Hillier, pharmacist at Everetts Pharmacy in Titchfield, talks to Saša Janković about taking a private flu vaccination service into schools and nurseries.

Service type: Flu vaccination

Name and location of pharmacy: Everetts Pharmacy, Titchfield

Name of (superintendent) pharmacist: Caroline Hillier

When did you start offering this service? About 8 or 9 years ago

Why did you start offering this service?

It came about when my own children were at nursery and I was trying to book my son in for some extra hours one winter. They couldn’t fit him in as they had too many staff members off sick, and there are strict rules about how many adults they need to look after children in nursery settings. I realised that as most of the staff were not entitled to a free flu jab they weren’t getting them done, so I offered to come in and vaccinate staff for them. The nursery company now offers free flu jabs as a benefit to all staff with no obligation that it is compulsory.

I started with this nursery when my two children were there, then I added the infant school as my children grew up, then their junior school, and I'm now up to six schools that pay for their staff to get a flu jab.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

There was really only the cost of a private PGD but I already had that to do private vaccinations in the pharmacy so I just had to make sure it allowed for off-site vaccination. There is also the cost of my refresher training but I’d do anyway because of the NHS and private service we provide. I do buy smaller sharps bins so I can use a new one at each site, but that’s not a significant cost.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

If it’s my first visit to a new location I do an initial risk assessment. My private PGD has a pro forma of what a private consultation room needs to be, and quite often I’m in the first aid room of the school. I need access to a telephone line to call 999 in case of anaphylaxis, it has to be a private area big enough to sit or lie down in, and I need to be able to wash my hands, have access to a fridge or have an appropriate cool box with me, and space for my sharps bin.

I email consent forms to staff who want the vaccination, then on the day I’ll ask them if they’ve had a flu jab before, if anything has changed for them since the last time, and then vaccinate them. After that I’ll send a letter to their GP to say I’ve vaccinated them.

This year, presumably in response to Covid, the NHS flu PGD has changed to allow off-site vaccination, which means I can now use my NHS and private PDGs at the same time off-site and vaccinate even more people.

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

Yes, definitely. The most obvious example is with the schools and nursery where I had a personal connection as my children went there. Having provided one service I now tend to be their go-to for medical advice. If they want replacement emergency salbutamol inhalers they come to me, I’ve given advice about holding paracetamol in their first aid room, and trained staff with dummy injector pens to show how to use an epi pen.

Pre-Covid I've given talks in the infant school for prospective parents or new parents about what to expect when your first child goes to school around things like headlice, ringworm, and other health concerns parents want to know about.

How have patients responded to the service?

Schools love the flu vaccination service for their staff as it’s so helpful. Primary schools have quite a lot of young staff and they tend not to be the ones who would choose to pay for a flu jab ordinarily – and quite often they don’t realise if you aren’t entitled to an NHS one you can pay and get it privately. People are also very receptive to getting their flu jab in the pharmacy, and I get close to a 100% return rate each year.

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

Across all these settings I vaccinate around 250-300 people in the flu season, and this has grown over the years. Sometimes I give up my regular day off on a Monday as I find it easier to vaccinate then as I don't have to back fill the pharmacy with cover. I've got 55 people to vaccinate this coming Monday and will probably done in 2-3 hours.

How much do you charge for the service?

I charge the same as for private clients coming into the pharmacy. It is £13.50 per person this year, but this changes each year as the cost of jabs changes. All the doses are ordered centrally by the Everetts group, and if I do a large number of staff on one visit we will give them a small discount, with no extra charge for me taking the vaccine clinic to them.

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

If you were just doing the NHS jabs offsite with the new PGD the numbers probably wouldn’t add up so you need private in there as well, but of course the NHS PGD is reasonably well funded so we do make money back that way.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, absolutely. It makes getting a flu jab much more accessible for teachers and people working in childcare, and shows a clear benefit to the staff and to the schools by reducing absences.

I enjoy using my skills and training to add another funding stream, and I get a lot of personal satisfaction from providing these services in the pharmacy as well as in the schools.