There are many different vaccination services that you can offer in your pharmacy – from flu to meningitis B. Here’s how to maximise your profits from them, says Rachel Carter
Statistics published by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) show that in 2018-19, community pharmacists vaccinated almost 1.3 million NHS patients classed as ‘at risk’ for flu.
But what’s less widely reported is that those pharmacists also carried out over 1m private flu jabs to what they would call the ‘worried well’, says Graham Thoms, chief executive at PharmaDoctor, which supports UK pharmacists to deliver a variety of clinical services, including vaccinations.
‘[Flu vaccinations are] a huge market,’ he adds.
The range of vaccination services now available for community pharmacists to offer can be broadly split into three categories: flu, travel health, and all non-travel vaccines, including (but not limited to) meningitis ACWY and B, HPV, chicken pox, pneumococcal, shingles, MMR, and hepatitis B.
Mr Thoms says pharmacists are beginning to become the dominant providers within travel health – with a ‘massive opportunity’ to plug the gap left by GP practices not offering these vaccinations’.
So how can community pharmacists really maximise the vaccination services they offer? We asked Mr Thoms to share his top tips:
1. If you’re already offering flu jabs, you should be offering all other vaccines too
‘Generally pharmacists are all trained and supported to deliver flu now – they will have undertaken training on injection technique, basic life support and anaphylaxis. My view is that they may as well maximise on those skills and offer all travel and other vaccines that are available privately, too.
‘We encourage pharmacists to offer the full spectrum because it’s not going to cost them much more to do so. Travel health is such a big revenue generator. The average spend is £125 for a 25 minute consultation. You’ve got to dispense a lot of prescriptions to generate that kind of revenue.’
2. Exploit the element of convenience that pharmacies have to offer
‘From what I’ve seen over the years, there’s a real trend now for people deciding that they don’t want to wait, if they want a health check or a vaccine, they want to have it when it’s convenient, at a time that’s suitable for them, without needing to take the day off work, for example. So even if it’s a vaccine offered on the NHS, the key bit for pharmacy is the instant access they can provide.’
3. Think wider than just the vaccines
‘It’s not just about the vaccines – you’ve got to think wider. If you’re offering a travel health clinic, for example, you should be offering a recommended insect repellent. Or if you’re vaccinating against waterborne diseases, then you should consider whether you could be selling travellers one of those water bottles with built-in filters. Doing this can significantly increase a patient’s basket size.’
4. Vaccination services are not ‘price sensitive’
‘To dispel a myth – I’ve seen websites talking about price comparison, but we’ve analysed different clinics and pharmacies and [vaccine services] do not appear to be price sensitive at all. I don’t think it’s got to the stage where the public is thinking, “I want that vaccine but I can get it £2 cheaper elsewhere.”
‘Pharmacists should have a look online and get a good indication for the prices. As a rule of thumb, whatever price pharmacists pay for the vaccine itself, they would usually mark it up so that when they sell the service they get a 40-50% margin. If the vaccine costs them £50, for example, generally speaking a pharmacist would charge between £90 and £100 for the actual service.’
5. Make the most of ‘word of mouth’
‘Over one million people walk into a pharmacy every day and that’s an opportunity. If people are buying sun tan cream or products that you recognise as an indication that they are going away on holiday, then make sure you – and the whole team – are having those conversations about the vaccine service.
‘Also, less than 10% of GP practices now offer a travel health service, so the most successful vaccination services we are aware of are in pharmacies that have built up a good relationship with their local practice. Now the doctors signpost any travellers that need jabs directly to them.’
6. Have an effective marketing strategy
‘Make sure you’ve got a website, make sure you’ve got your vaccination service on that website, with details of what you’re offering and then market it. There are number of ways that you can do that, but we would particularly encourage pharmacists to exploit all the social media channels.
‘You can use social media very cost effectively by connecting with customers in your geographic area, and you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money to connect with an awful lot of people.’
Rachel Carter is a freelance journalist