Anil Sharma, pharmacist and director of Alconbury Pharmacy in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, talks to Saša Janković about his flu vaccination hub.

Service type: Flu vaccination hub

Name and location of pharmacyAlconbury Pharmacy, Huntingdon

Name of (superintendent) pharmacist: Anil Sharma

When did you start offering this service?

September 2021

Why did you start offering this service?

Generally pharmacies do flu vaccinations in their shop and wait for people to come in for it, having seen advertisements for the service or as repeat customers from previous years.

This year I’d ordered my flu vaccines very early and they’d arrived by 6 September. In fact I’d ordered so many – 50% more than last year because that had been a bumper year and I thought people who’d had it last year would probably want one again – that I wondered if I’d got too many.

But then I kept hearing in the news that jab deliveries were being delayed, which gave me an idea. I thought ‘what is stopping me running a flu clinic like GPs do?’, so instead of waiting for people to come to my pharmacy I booked Brampton Memorial Centre village hall on a Saturday and set up a walk-in clinic.

I chose Brampton because I’d heard the doctors there and in nearby Huntingdon had their flu vaccines delayed, and I knew there were lots of elderly people in the village, so there was a need. There is pharmacy but they don’t do flu vaccines so they didn't mind, and of course the benefit we have as pharmacists is that we can vaccinate any patient from any surgery, whereas GPs can only stick to their list.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

The hall cost about £100 for the Saturday morning, and I got our pre-reg to come with me to help with the patient admin. I promoted the service on our Facebook page about three days before, and made some posters for about £20 at a local printer and put them up at some of the stores in the village.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

The Thursday before my clinic the doctors’ vaccines arrived, so when they realised I was running my clinic on the Saturday they notified their patients and asked them to come to theirs that day instead so their vaccines wouldn’t go to waste.

We were open in the village hall from 8am to 1.30pm and people began dropping in right from the start. From the minute we opened to the minute we closed we were so busy, because people went to the doctors surgery and saw the long queue outside and decided to come to us instead. I had warned my pre-reg to bring in some pharmacy paperwork to do as I thought we wouldn’t be busy, but I was so wrong!

We fast-tracked the older people and those with mobility issues so they wouldn’t have to wait too long, and no one else minded. The space in the hall also enabled us to operate a one-way system, and socially distance about 20 people in there at one time – which the doctors didn’t have.

How have patients responded to the service?

They loved it. They said they really appreciated us coming out into the community to do this, especially as some told us their surgeries had cancelled their flu appointments as they didn’t know when they’d get their vaccines in. In fact, it was so successful I did it all again the following Tuesday morning, and I’m doing it in other outlying villages now, as the patients there can’t travel.

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

We jabbed over 200 patients in those five hours and I was the only person vaccinating, with my pre-reg doing all the admin – that’s a vaccination every one and a half minutes – and uploaded them all onto PharmOutcomes the next day.

How much do you charge for the service?

Ninety-nine per cent of the people who came qualified for the free NHS vaccine.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, if you have the time you can get out and do this in the community. I got 30-40 Facebook likes from doing this and a lot of people also commented on the village page saying what a great idea it was.

Going out into the community gives you a lot more advantage and its something we should do more of, and the regulations allow us to do. I know it’s difficult, but if you have got the opportunity do it, because the public will love you for it as it’s not something they expect from pharmacy. It’s not just about building the profile of the pharmacy, but making the general public aware that pharmacists are much more than people who check prescriptions.