From flu to travel to HPV, David Ashton – superintendent pharmacist at Abington Pharmacy in Northampton – talks to Saša Janković about running a vaccination clinic.

Service type: Vaccination clinic.

Name and location of pharmacy: Abington Pharmacy, Northampton.

Name of superintendent pharmacist: David Ashton.

Why did you start offering this service?

I did my initial vaccination training when I worked as a relief pharmacist in 2016, and continued offering a range of vaccination services when I joined Abington Pharmacy two years ago.

There’s demand in our area for all kinds of vaccinations, which is why we offer everything from flu and pneumonia, to HPV and travel vaccinations, as well as those necessary for occupational health.

Over the past year we’ve done a lot more pneumonia shots than before, and now that the Government is once again opening up travel to foreign climes I expect our travel vaccination clinic to take off again. I think there will be people who haven’t had a foreign holiday for a while who have been saving up and now might travel further afield, so we are making sure we are all geared up for this as it will be only a few months away.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

We use the PharmaDoctor PGD, which is £1,000 for the full vaccination pack.

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

I have done various vaccination trainings over the years. Certain certificates are needed for each PGD and you can print off your own CPPE declaration of competence. We are part of the PillBox Chemists Group and our company also monitors our performance as well to make sure the pharmacists are operating at their required high standard.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

People make enquiries by either phoning the store or coming in to ask us about the vaccination service – for example, our travel vaccinations – so we tell them about pricing and timescales and book them in for a consultation.

At the appointment we’ll take their medical history, talk through vaccination options and what the recommendations are for the country they are travelling to, tell them about the diseases present there, and administer the jabs they choose to have. Some vaccinations are compulsory to get into some countries, but others are optional. For example, if you are going to Thailand you might have a Japanese encephalitis jab – which is £180 for a course of treatment – but this disease is really only prevalent in Thailand between April and October so if you are going outside of those times you probably don’t need this jab. Similarly, if you are going somewhere on a jungle adventure you might want a rabies vaccination, but if you’re staying in an all-inclusive, walled-off 5-star hotel on the beach then you probably don’t. That’s why we advise all our customers what the risks are in the places they are visiting, so they can make an informed choice.

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

Yes, depending on where they are travelling to. People often want insect repellent and sunscreens, but we also stock things like emergency first aid kits with snake anti-venom for treks further afield, such as to Africa.

How have patients responded to the service?

Obviously, there have been significant disruptions to all services because of the pandemic – especially travel vaccinations – but when it is running people have definitely responded favourably.

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

Under normal circumstances our travel vaccinations clinic is busy all year round because people are happy to travel further afield, and it’s always summer somewhere in the world.

With flu vaccinations, last winter season we did 626, of which 51 were private.

How much do you charge for the service?

We charge a consultation fee of £15 for the travel clinic, because sometimes all people want is a print-out of what vaccines they need so they can go get them from the GP surgery. However, on the whole if people come to the clinic it’s because they know they need private vaccinations, and these range in price from £30 for diphtheria, tetanus and polio, up to £145 each for HPV vaccinations (with 2-3 sometimes needed, depending on the person’s age).

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

Figures not available.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes. The upside to it is amazing, although the downside is it can be extremely laboursome and sometimes frustrating, mainly because of missed appointments. It’s a lovely job from the perspective of hearing about people’s travel plans. Listening to their stories and excitement can be the nicest part of your day.

It would be my dream to be able to provide an NHS-commissioned travel vaccination service, and it seems the time couldn’t be more right for this. With GPs remaining closed for this kind of thing at the moment, people are coming into pharmacy even more for his service, so I think we’ve shown it’s fairly obvious that community pharmacies should be commissioned for this too.