Rachel Carter spoke to Chandrakant Patel, independent prescriber at Murrays Chemists in Harrow, Middlesex and Old Street, London about his experience of running a weight management service.
Chandrakant Patel first decided to offer a weight management service at Murrays Chemist in Old Street, London, nine years ago, with the aim of expanding his existing service portfolio and generating more income.
At the time, the then-Primary Care Trust (PCT) was very proactive, he says, and had been encouraging pharmacies to offer more public health services to benefit the local population.
The PCT provided initial funding, training for staff, the necessary weight and height measuring equipment and glucose and blood pressure monitors, Mr Patel says.
The service sees the pharmacist doing an initial consultation with a patient, taking their measurements and discussing the reasons why they need to lose weight, with only those who seem ‘really serious’ being enrolled, Mr Patel adds.
The person is then monitored and offered emotional support for a four-week period and if they lose a minimum of 2kg during this time, they are put on the weight loss medication Orlistat, which is a tablet taken three times per day with meals.
Two years later, the PCT stopped funding for weight management services, but Mr Patel decided to continue providing the service to anyone who wanted it locally, through a patient group direction. Today, the service is provided using Mr Patel’s independent prescribing qualification, but the way it works remains the same.
Eligible patients are generally referred to the pharmacy by other health professionals, including nurses and physiotherapists, but Mr Patel says he has found ‘word of mouth’ to be the second most common route people find their way into the weight loss service – through ‘friends of friends’ sharing their experiences.
‘Recruitment is highly seasonal – January to March are the best months, with new year’s resolutions and summer holidays being the main reasons,’ he adds.
‘We’ve never pushed it through social media or advertising though – I think if the marketing is right, you could probably bring in more people.’
‘Supply with support’
Mr Patel estimates he has supported four or five patients this year and 60 in total since the service started, but he says there is scope to generate income. Each patient is charged £65 for one month’s supply of Orlistat, and typically spends three to four months in the service and on the medication.
Patient feedback has also been good, Mr Patel says, and he has continued to offer the service – now also at the second Murrays Chemist branch in Harrow, Middlesex – for two main reasons: to retain patients in the face of the threat from online dispensing pharmacies, and because ‘it’s not just supply, it’s supply with support’.
‘There is a threat from online pharmacists to us bricks and mortar pharmacies and providing multiple services with face-to-face consultations can help to retain patients – you build relationships and they have more confidence in you,’ he says.
‘Professionally, it is also very satisfying to provide a clinical service – the consultations are more in-depth, you get to know the patients better and seeing their results after months of hard work is fantastic – that makes it worth it.’