As September came, it brought with it the launch of a renewed national flu service for pharmacies in England. The major change this year was the two different vaccines – Fluad for those over 65 years and the quadrivalent vaccine for those 64 years and under.
One concern I initially had was the delivery dates for Fluad and the allocations that each pharmacy would potentially receive, as demand for the flu service is high in my pharmacy. My team vaccinated almost 800 patients last year, double the number vaccinated the previous year. And it has indeed been a service in high demand – currently, as you read this, I have vaccinated well over 400 patients and still counting.
But, rather than wallow in the potential challenges ahead, I’ve decided to tackle them head on, and my solutions seem to be working. So here are my top tips for running a successful flu service this season:
1. Offer the service to every customer that enters the premises
Due to the changes and the delays in receiving vaccinations, my priorities were raising awareness of the service and recruiting patients. Being a pharmacist, organisation comes naturally and the first step was to engage my own team. For me, team engagement is vital to having any successful service. The team were briefed on the details of the service and encouraged to offer flu vaccinations to every customer they have contact with.
2. Share the details of the service you are providing at a regional level
I believe the national flu service is a huge step forward for pharmacists, allowing us to expand our current provisions of care, so reaching out to the public is something I am passionate about. Advertising in store is important and effective, but really only has an impact on those passing by. This season, I decided to reach out further, and invited all local councillors and the MP for Hartlepool to have their flu jab.
This was a huge success, and all those that came into the pharmacy and received their flu jab shared photos and recommended the service through their social media channels. This in turn increased awareness of this service available through local pharmacies.
But I didn’t stop there. The local newspaper was also contacted and asked to cover this story, and they did...twice. The paper also shared the photos and story on their website, which I’m told is accessed by 40,000 – 50,000 people a day.
3. Use an appointment-style approach to help prepare for high demand
You may be thinking that I must have received an extremely large allocation of Fluad to hit such high numbers so early in the season, but actually I didn’t. As Fluad was not delivered to my store until mid-September, I arranged appointments and home visits for eligible patients. This allowed me to make arrangements for any additional Fluad that I needed to cover the numbers.
4. Contact your local GP surgery early to discuss the service
I cannot blog about the flu service without mentioning GPs, can I? Even though it can be challenging at times, it is so important to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with them. Keep them in the loop in terms of when you will be starting and how you can help or support them.
I am proud to say that I have a great relationship with my local surgery, who I work closely with during flu season, as we both have the same goal: to protect those who are vulnerable against flu.
And of course, my pharmacy’s flu service wouldn’t be a success without the help from my regional development manager – David Rowntree – and the whole Well Pharmacy team, who support my passion for the flu vaccination service and continue to encourage my plans and ideas.
Good luck to everyone taking part in the #jabathon this season.
Yasmeen Afsar is manager of the Well pharmacy on Catcote Road, Hartlepool