Just a quick note. I had my flu vaccination today. I’m pleased to have had it, and relatively early in the season. Was it a great experience though? – not entirely.

I booked online with a major multiple (I won’t say which, but it wasn’t too far down the alphabet) for a branch close to me, and found I only had to wait a couple of weeks. When the useful text reminder arrived the day before, I happened to notice that my appointment was now at a different branch and at a slightly different time. I was glad I’d spotted that to be able to get myself to the right place on schedule, but all was fine. I rang the original branch to check, and they confirmed that the new plan was probably the right one.

When I arrived, I was reassured to find I was on the list, and I was given a seat and a pen and a consent form to fill in (on the back of an information booklet, though no one suggested I read it). I was asked for my NHS number – handily on my NHS app on my phone - but, with no signal in the basement where we were, it was only by overhearing another patient mention free store WiFi that I was able to sort that one out. I gave back the pen, which was passed on to the next person without being sanitised (did I hear somewhere that Covid is on the increase again?). I then waited for short while as the system crashed and was revived – it happens - by which time there was quite a crowd waiting, though there was no queuing system as such, so it was a case of who shouted loudest when the pharmacist said: ‘Next please’.

When it was my turn, the jab itself was painless, swift, and delivered with appropriate questioning, and a smile – though no mention of a waiting time afterwards or what to do if I felt ill? On my way out, I couldn’t help make a few suggestions about giving information about free WiFi and the like to the receptionist, but I don’t think that went down too well by the look on their face.

I’m not sure what I think after that. I’ve spoken to enough pharmacists over the years to know that this experience of a pharmacy delivered service could have been a bit better. Clinically all was good, thank you, but this was a reminder to me that the patient’s experience is based on the whole service from end to end, and in this case, it wasn’t perfect.

I’ve heard from someone else recently that the online booking system of a different multiple had cancelled their appointment three times without explanation, until they resorted to a walk-in. Perhaps online booking systems aren't that easy to manage.

I'm also very aware how busy everyone is, and it feels really bad to criticise at all. But do you know what your flu and Covid booking systems are like to use from the patients' perspective? Do you encourage feedback from patients, and then do something with that information if you do receive it? How do you help the patient have the best experience possible in your pharmacy?

I’m booked in for a Covid booster as well soon – I’ll report back.