Panasha Desai, pharmacist manager at Landy’s Chemist in Finchley Road, Temple Fortune, talks to Saša Janković about adapting her travel clinic and PGD services during the pandemic.

Service type: Travel clinic and PGD services

Name and location of pharmacy: Landy’s Chemist, Finchley Road, Temple Fortune

Name of pharmacist: Panasha Desai

When did you start offering this service?

Our travel clinic started in around 2014 and over time we added on a small number of other PGDs for things like erectile dysfunction, antimalarials and Champix as well.

Why did you start offering this service?

When the pandemic hit, customers were complaining that they couldn't get to see a GP, plus some people get comfort from seeing people face to face, so we added PGDs including antibiotics for strep A and urinary tract infections, Dymista nasal spray for allergies, and an antibiotic spray for ear infection, which really took off.

In summer 2021, travel started to open up a little but with a Covid testing requirement, so we implemented a PCR testing service with same-day and next-day results. In September we also started offering an NHS pilot that conducts lateral flow tests in pharmacy.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

We buy our PGDs as a package from Sonar for £599+vat. With the PCR testing, we don't pay for the swabs but sending them to the lab triggers a charge. The NHS in-pharmacy lateral flow testing pilot doesn’t cost us anything, as all tests and PPE are provided.

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

We already had the staff who were trained to offer the travel service, and there was free training for the PCR testing, so we redeployed them to that.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

My father has had a pharmacy in this area for about 40 years now and we are lucky to have a good reputation in the community. People find out about our services by word of mouth, and if they come in for one they realise we do others as well.

With the NHS pharmacy lateral flow pilot, patients scan a QR code and input all their details. We do the lateral flow test and put the results on a central system, which sends them a text or email showing their results. This is useful for people doing things like visiting care homes or going to a football match, where a lateral flow result was sufficient but they needed the proof of where they had the test done.

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

Yes, there are lots of opportunities to link sell. If people are having PCRs and even lateral flow tests done because they are going to an event or on a plane they often want to buy masks, and some may be immunocompromised or just nervous, so have also bought gloves and visors.

We are known in our area for selling supplements, and during the pandemic we have sold a lot of immune system boosters – zinc, high dose vitamin C, echinacea, quercetin – especially to people going on a plane, who often want antibacterial wipes and sprays. Some customers also choose immune boosters or probiotics if they have a UTI or strep A sore throat.

How have patients responded to the service?

Our customers love the convenience. We are in a heavily residential area but there are also a lot of businesses around us, so the lateral flow testing has been useful for people who have to prove they are negative before they go back to work.

Our oral PGDs are great because in some instances they do reduce the need for the patient to go to the GP – and we have a good relationship with our local GPs so they are also happy.

We had an arrangement with three families having weddings who would only let guests come provided they had had a lateral flow test done in our pharmacy within 24 hours before the wedding.

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

Last summer was busy with PCR testing, and December too as people were travelling. The lateral flow was slow to start in September 2021 as we were still in a lockdown, but really picked up in December as the government told people that Christmas was ‘on’.

How much do you charge for the service?

For the PGDs it varies, but we don't charge a consultation fee as we want our customers to not be put off coming to ask for help and advice. The lateral flow is free to customers, and the same-day PCR is £99, of £79 for the next-day.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, but it depends on your local demographic. Consider where you are, if there is a need for the services you are considering, and whether people are willing and able to pay for them.