Mr Ahmed, director of the two-strong Ahmeys Pharmacy chain in Oxford, opened a private walk-in minor illness clinic in both branches in June 2018. Its flagship branch in Cowley generated an “extra income of between £5,500 and £6,000 a month” in its first year, he told C+D.
This has since risen to around £8,000 per month, thanks to an increased marketing drive on social media, a letter to local GPs encouraging referrals and adverts on the side of local buses, he explained.
As well as minor ailment treatments, the clinics offer private services, including: blood tests; sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment; Botox and liposuction; and a walk-in travel clinic.
For walk-in clinic appointments, patients pay £10 for a consultation with one of Ahmeys’ pharmacist prescribers, which last 10-15 minutes. If medicines are then required, the patient pays for the cost of the prescription.
Some treatments cost more, such as a full blood test and screening for £45, and Botox from £255.
Mr Ahmed has aspirations to expand the clinic’s dermatology services and introduce cervical screening in the pharmacies, he told C+D.
The clinic is attracting an average of 25 patients a day, Mr Ahmed said, and “we're at a stage now where we could possibly increase our consulting fee to about £30, because we've got the clientele”.
Mr Ahmed said the reduced waiting time is part of the clinic's appeal for patients.
“We developed the minor illness clinic because we had patients walk into our pharmacy and say, ‘Look, we can’t see a doctor’,” he said.
In one instance, a patient needed a steroid injection for osteoarthritis, but the NHS waiting list was too long. After receiving the patient’s referral from their GP, Mr Ahmed administered the injection himself.
The treatments offered as part of Ahmeys Pharmacy's service are “affordable, and you’re getting [them] there and then”, he added.
Building confidence to prescribe
The clinic is “in line with the government’s agenda to upskill pharmacists”, said Mr Ahmed, who admits was spurred on to set it up by the lack of opportunity to use his independent prescribing qualification elsewhere.
When he first qualified as an independent prescriber in 2017, Mr Ahmed would ask for patients' consent to discuss their case with a doctor, until he had seen several patients with the same condition and felt confident in treating them.
“I discussed it with the doctors and [decided that], ultimately, as a pharmacist, I’ve got to get to that level where I can deal with minor illnesses,” he explained.
“A year down the line, I'm treating patients on my own and I don't need to call up doctors all the time.
“I make sure that I do everything from top to bottom: make sure that patients have a follow-up; that information goes to their GP; and that they have a copy of their patient consent form,” he added.
Mr Ahmed has since trained all his pharmacists to give routine clinical examinations, as well to take samples and test them.
Finding appropriate courses to develop the walk-in clinics “has been challenging”, he admitted. Following his own experience and “numerous conversations with colleagues who have undertaken the prescribing course, yet do not prescribe in practice”, he developed a “multidisciplinary-led training programme” of his own, called MEDLRN.
Mr Ahmed aims to help other pharmacists put their prescribing qualifications into practice. “If they really put their minds to it and are willing to upskill, pharmacists are capable of doing it,” he said.