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How to optimise your flu vaccination services

In the first of a series of ‘how to’ articles, two contractors talk to Saša Jankovic about how they are maximising their flu vaccination services

Community pharmacy has been providing flu vaccinations under a nationally commissioned service since September 2015, as part of the NHS seasonal flu vaccination campaign that runs from September to March.

This year, the government announced that everyone aged 50 and over would be among those offered a free flu vaccination, reversing their previous decision that those aged between 50 and 64 would not be included.

Read more: NHS England scraps free flu jabs for 50-64-year-olds in 2022/23 season

Contractors will be paid £9.58 for each vaccine administered. And they will be reimbursed for the vaccine cost at the basic price (list price) of the individual vaccine administered, with an allowance at the applicable VAT rate also paid.

Dimple Bhatia is superintendent pharmacist director at Tollesbury Pharmacy in Maldon, Essex, and has been offering a private flu vaccination service in the pharmacy for the last 13 years, as well as the NHS service since 2015.

Although the service is a success, he expects contractors will make less money from private flu vaccinations this season. He explains: "We charge £15 for a private flu jab as we are buying them for about £10 each."

Read more: Which pharmacies administered the most flu jabs last season?

However "as the eligibility criteria for this year is people aged 50 and over, that will cover a lot of people who used to pay, so the amount we make from private flu vaccinations will be minimal this year," he adds.

 

Measures of success

 

Tollesbury Pharmacy makes use of social media, as well as posters and window signage, to attract customers. Last year the pharmacy introduced a 100% paperless booking system that encouraged patients to complete an online flu vaccination form before coming in for their jab.

Mr Bhatia says "jab and go" proved popular, with "many positive comments on our Twitter and Facebook feeds".

Read more: VIDEO: C+D visits Seqirus’s flu vaccine manufacturing site 

A clear measure of success for any flu service is repeat business, he points out. "People keep coming back so they must trust us," he says. "Plus apparently I’m known for not giving painful injections, which is nice."

"And of course it also brings in new customers, which give pharmacists and their teams the opportunity to showcase the pharmacy and other services at the same time," he continues.

 

Service promotion 

 
 
Sanjay Patel is superintendent pharmacist and owner of Sutton Pharmacy, an independent family-owned pharmacy in Surrey.
 
He set up a private flu vaccination service in store as soon as he took over the pharmacy in 2013 and has since expanded the service to cover eight local schools, as well as offering the NHS flu vaccination service in store.

Read more: PSNC: Pharmacies could become ‘prime location’ for range of vaccinations 

He says the key to promoting the service in the community is to "make every contact count".
 
"We ask every person who comes through the door if they want a flu jab and put labels on all the bags promoting our service. We also have a good relationship with our local GPs to the extent that if they run out of flu jabs they send patients to us, and vice versa," he explains.

 

Challenges and solutions

 

As NHS England’s autumn COVID-19 booster vaccination programme is also underway, pharmacy teams offering this service, as well as flu jabs, have added workload to contend with.
 
"The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service has not really kicked off yet in our area, but we are a COVID-19 vaccination centre and we are generally busier at the moment", says Mr Bhatia.
 
"Doing flu jabs isn’t hard, but having the right amount of cover is an issue that we are struggling with," he continues.

Read more: Pharmacies in England administered almost 4.8 million flu jabs in 2021/22, PSNC confirms 

"To run these things properly, you need a second pharmacist, and if you do 30 flu jabs a day that will help you pay a locum pharmacist a reasonable salary. But at the moment, getting locum pharmacists at a fair rate is a challenge."
 
Mr Patel has increased the price he charges for a private flu vaccination from £15 last year to £18 this year.
 
"Everything has gone up in price, so we need more margin to cover costs, including wages," he explains.
 
He does, however, have a second pharmacist during core hours, and recently trained up his trainee pharmacist to vaccinate, which, he says, "for the cost of about £200 for the training is a no brainer, as it's good for them and frees you up to do other things".
 

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