Marc Brooks, head of pharmacy at Lincolnshire Co-op, talks to Sasa Jankovic about running offsite NHS flu vaccination clinics.

Service type: Offsite NHS flu vaccination clinics

Name and location of pharmacy: 17 venues across Lincolnshire

Name of head of pharmacy: Marc Brooks

Why did you start offering this service?

The main reason was to be able to make use of really good venues to offer access to vaccination – such as church halls or community centres. We picked them in areas where we could pair them with our local pharmacies, so people already knew us, although we did run one in a place where we had a food store rather than a pharmacy. This was the third year we have done it, and each year we have more patients for the service.

There's a fee to hire each venue, but it’s still really worth it, as being able to do a lot of vaccinations all in one go is easier to manage than doing them in branch.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

The service runs in conjunction with our community and membership team, who usually organise charity or community events, so we liaise with them to help book the venues for us. They suggest different venues across the county that they have used before or they know are suitable – they have to have internet, be big enough, and be accessible – and we take care of the professional side of things.

We have a booking system that people can use to reserve a time slot, but if they can’t do it this way, we give them a central phone number they can phone and we’ll book it for them, and they get an email or text reminder afterwards.

Most of the time we only offer the service on one day at each site – generally as soon as we get the vaccines at the end of September or early October. We use the teams from the local branch to deliver the service and we will backfill there if there if we need to.

We still do flu vaccinations in store as well, but this is a way for us logistically to help more people in one go, and it’s easier to manage this way than in branch.

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

No, but it raises awareness of our pharmacies and what we can do.

How have patients responded to the service?

We can alert our members to the service, but it is open to anybody, so it’s a good way to advertise everything that pharmacy can do in the local community. We’ve had very good patient feedback, and each year we get a lot of repeat customers.

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

We can do up to 200 vaccinations in a session, and most branches end up doing more in a day that way than in the whole season otherwise.

In the 2022 season, our 17 offsite flu clinics delivered a total of 2,600 vaccinations, up from 1,000 in 2021, and 443 in 2020.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, because of the convenience. It is a lot of work in a day or two, but it is convenient for the patients and easier to manage from the pharmacy side, especially for an independent or a small group. Even if you have to book a locum in for your branch for the day, the sheer numbers make it worth it. You are helping patients get vaccinated early and doing it this way eases the pressure on the pharmacy team.