Andrew Grierson, superintendent pharmacist and IP at Wyvern Pharmacy, in Accrington, Lancashire, talks to Saša Janković about running a private clinic in his pharmacy.

Service type: Private clinic

Name and location of pharmacy: Wyvern Pharmacy, in Accrington, Lancashire

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Andrew Grierson

When did you start offering this service?

I graduated in 2002, and qualified as an Independent Prescriber in 2013, as well as working for a while in a GP surgery. We opened this pharmacy in 2016 and have been running our private clinic since then.

Why did you start offering this service?

When we first launched it, as well as giving me an opportunity to use my prescribing qualification, it the thinking behind the clinic was that it would be a time saving service for our customers – but now it has turned into a necessity, especially as so many GPs still have closed doors.

Initially it was used by people who were struggling to get a convenient GP appointment and could come and see us instead, but once Covid hit it because apparent some people were having trouble getting appointments and needed seeing the same day.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

There is a bit of equipment needed to run the private clinic but nothing too expensive – a stethoscope, otoscope, that kind of thing – because if patients need any major investigation we refer them on anyway.

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

I self-funded my IP when I was working elsewhere before we opened this pharmacy, and I have also done the usual vaccination training, as well as Botox training.

I’ve just completed ear irrigation training so I can offer that service too, and this has proved popular so far. We see a lot of people who think they have ear wax build up but it turns out they have an outer ear infection, so as a prescriber I can switch tack and prescribe them what’s appropriate.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

Usually it’s the dispensary staff talking to patients on the phone first to run through basic questions in order to work out if the person needs more urgent care first, or can just buy something appropriate over the counter from their local pharmacy or supermarket. Our contract is as a distance selling pharmacy so we can’t sell these things on site, but if their condition falls in the middle and it sounds as if they may need a POM then we book them in for an appointment.

We see a lot of people for urine infections and throat infections. Respiratory infections are also common, though with these it’s often more to do with the fact that the person just needs the reassurance they’ve had a check and know what they have is definitely viral and they are not going to be prescribed anything. If that’s the case we do send people away with a leaflet on symptom advice but always tell them they can come back if it worsens.

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

As our contract is distance selling we straddle an odd line. We can of course give people basic advice but if they want to buy medicines to treat self-limiting conditions we can’t do that. This is another reason why we triage by phone in case they need something they can just buy which we can’t supply.

How have patients responded to the private clinic?

Patients are very happy that they can be seen and treated so quickly, where appropriate. However, we are in a heavily deprived area, even within Lancashire, with lots of people on low incomes and benefits, so not everyone is able or happy to pay for a private service.

We have had great feedback about the service on our Facebook page, and people do come back again, telling us they’ve not even tried to ring their GP as they know they can come here and be seen. Some of our local GP receptionists refer people to us as well, and we are signed up to GP CPCS.

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

We see two people a day on average, so about 40 consultations a month.

How much do you charge for the private clinic?

It’s a £10 consultation charge, then we add on the cost of the drug at more of less tariff price. It’s the best way we could find to try to make it as fair as we could for the person who needs the service, but also for us. In truth, the service is probably worth more but if we were going to charge more there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t use it as they can’t afford it in our area

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Absolutely, if you can. Our philosophy is if we can think of a service, we will do it.