Tips for a better flu service

Community pharmacies that are not offering flu vaccinations are missing out on offering a useful service and an additional income stream, says Laura Reed, Numark’s service development manager

We know how popular flu vaccination has proved to be over the past few years and there is a clear demand for a private service in many areas. Plan well in advance for the winter ahead, whether you are intending to offer a service for the first time or looking to improve the impact of an existing service.

Planning for winter

Now is the time to start preparing for the 2016/17 flu season as you access training. Work to the following approximate annual schedule:

  • March to May – planning and raising awareness 􀀀
  • June to September – training and preparation 􀀀
  • September to March – vaccination period.

Consider whether you and your team will require the full face-to-face training or just a refresher course.

Know your market

If you are planning to set up a new service, or have not been through much planning before, use the following four steps to be clear on who your local customers are and what they want from you.

Step 1: Customers

Identify your target customers. Understanding the age and gender profile of those in the market for your service, knowing where they live and work and their habits will be the key to communicating with them. If they already use your pharmacy, you have a captive audience. If they don’t already come into your pharmacy, where do they go?

Step 2: Stakeholders

Consider third parties who may not be your ultimate customer, but can help carry the message for you. This could be GPs and their staff, district nurses, opticians, dentists, employers, local shops or the local media.

Step 3: Delivery

Decide how you are going to deliver your service. A key point is to make it easy for people to get vaccinated. The convenience of pharmacy is the strongest reason for people getting vaccinated outside their surgery. Decide if you will offer appointments or have a drop in service.

Step 4: Marketing

Research available marketing materials. Although you don’t have a marketing team working for you directly, you’d be surprised at the resources which are freely available through membership organisations such as Numark. If you need to create new ones, use a professional for this – would you want to be vaccinated by someone who has amateur-looking publicity materials? 

Potential for a private service

There is a working population only too happy to make use of your services and pay for them. Don’t dismiss the private audience now you are adept at delivering flu vaccinations. Of course, this will depend on where your pharmacy is, but if you are on a busy high street with nearby office buildings or, even better, located where people frequently commute to work, you can provide a paid-for service that will be valued for its convenience.

The average price that customers pay for a private vaccine is around £10.00, so depending on the price you pay for vaccines, your profit per vaccination could be £6 or more.

Carrying out 100 vaccinations per season is completely realistic if planned in advance. Our tips to maximise on this opportunity are: 􀀀

  • Begin targeting potential customers in advance of the service launching in September 􀀀
  • Identify all potential customers either when bringing in prescriptions or when purchasing products 􀀀
  • Educate and involve your whole team to support recruiting into the service 􀀀
  • Market the service – MASTA offers a free marketing pack to help you when you purchase vaccines through them
  • Consider offering the service to local businesses, schools and care homes – Numark’s private PGD covers offsite vaccinations.

One of our members has reported carrying out up to 800 vaccinations in a single season, which proves that there can be a high demand if you plan and communicate the benefits to your customers effectively.

Providing a flu service will not only increase footfall into your pharmacy, it will also help raise awareness to patients that a community pharmacy team does more than just dispense prescriptions. As with any well-run pharmacy service, a flu service will help to build customer loyalty, making patients much more likely to return to your pharmacy for their next flu vaccination, but also for other products and services you provide.