Mike is the owner, managing director and superintendent pharmacist of Broadway Pharmacy in Preston. He shared some of his ideas around starting a flu jabs in pharmacy, and how his patients absolutely loved the convenience and accessibility of the service in Broadway Pharmacy.
“There is plenty of opportunity to generate, in a short time, some significant revenue. If you are not doing it with any focus, I really encourage you to give flu jabs your real focus. Yes, it’s challenging to fit in your workload on top of everything else that you are already doing, but it gives you the opportunity to showcase what you can actually do and also generate revue to support other areas of your business.”
He said flu jabs can actually give community pharmacists the desire and appetite to look at other vaccination services and have a year-round revenue from vaccines rather than just a short period of income between September and January.
He also gave some ideas around how to promote an in-store flu service.
“If you aren’t already doing it – make every interaction with you patients count. Get you, team, to fully engage with what the service needs are and prepare them to happily speak to the regular patients that come in.
“Try to explain how the service works. You have all the material from pharma companies, PSNC, use your own as well – make use of every opportunity, every dispensing and make sure you are providing information to try and encourage interest in the service.”
Michael’s advice is also to make a real effort in reaching out to and engaging with the local businesses and employers. “It’s in their interest to have a healthy workforce.
“Don’t be surprised, there are many companies who have budget for this.
“It’s important to use marketing material that can explain the benefits of your service and the vaccinations. Use contacts in the local area and spend time building rapport with businesses and understand their needs.”
A pharmacy that is well-versed in fl u services can safely introduce a travel clinic. He spoke of the time when his team launched their travel clinic with not a lot of marketing other than a uniform branding and a Google listing. But they made sure that all the practices in the area were fully aware of the services they offered and that generated a massive interest as doctors happily signposted their patients to the pharmacy.
“Travel is not just about the vaccines, there’s an opportunity to link sale here. Many parts of the world there a need for enhanced layer of protection, or if not, still a desire to avoid mosquitos biting at them. There are multiple things to think about. It’s important to have a focus in your retail space around travel well-being because there some many things that can complement beyond just being vaccinated.”
Michael’s journey began several years ago when he got in touch with a Primary Care Trust very keen on piloting a new local flu service for the NHS. The pharmacy was situated in a large residential area with multiple GP surgeries in close proximity, so it was imperative to have “those conversations” before embarking on the journey.
“The ambition of the programme was to complement the existing services. So it was about trying to get off on the right foot. And it was completely exciting and different to a day job.”
After completing relevant training, it was time for delivery and Michael’s pharmacy team managed to administer 200 flu jabs in the first year. That brought in new patients to the pharmacy which was mostly providing MURs until then – its bread and butter.
“It was a nice new experience, one that would invigorate the thinking – what else can we do with this?” he said.
To the team it felt as though a community pharmacy was the right setting for such a service because of easy accessibility, long opening hours and no requirement for prior appointments.
“People really appreciated the accessibility and convenience of having the service so easily available.” And the knowledge and skills of the team meant that a pharmacy was ideally placed to promote and counsel on vaccination, like any other medicinal service.
Moreover, Mike said “proving flu jabs, relatively speaking, is quite a quick service. It doesn’t take a long consultation, the markup was profitable, and the service had the potential to expand.”
And good feedback from happy patients helped sustain the service, he added.
“It started to spark the idea of what else can we do with vaccinations, especially when it became part of Category M and funding cut announcements (in 2015) which reduced margins on medicines and establishment payments.”
But that also provided the opportunity to Michael to expand the services and fully utilise the clinical skills of the team.
He aid since pharmacists offer thousands of consultations each year for free, now is the time to maximise the ones “we can potentially see a remuneration on.”
The journey, which started in 2010 with 200 hundred vaccinations, peaked year on year, and last year it was ranked second in UK after Michael’s pharmacy administered a record number of NHS vaccines in-store.
This article also appears in the November issue of Pharmacy Business.