Once you have maximised all income available through NHS revenue streams, then it makes sense to grow your business through private services. Our travel service business has grown by more than 300 per cent over the first three years, and there is still capacity to grow this further. The success of the service depends on your demographic, good PR and links with local surgeries. We now operate our service as independent prescribers, but initially ran the service through PGDs until we grew our confidence and experience. The service is professionally and financially very rewarding.
Sally Arnison, pharmacist, Barnton Pharmacy & Travel Clinic, Edinburgh
Travel services in pharmacy can deliver faster access to vaccine and antimalarial medication than the more conventional route of obtaining from GP practices. The remuneration for GPs for travel immunisation is not all encompassing, and not all vaccines are free for patients. This mixed message leaves a gap for pharmacies to conveniently fill by addressing this confusion. However, due to uncertainty of supply, they need to have access to the vaccines readily without having to overstock.
Peter Cattee, PCT Healthcare, Derbyshire
Travel vaccines can be very important to pharmacy. It reduces reliance of the market solely on NHS revenue, while enhancing the role that pharmacy plays in providing patients with a convenient location to obtain clinical services. One drawback, however, is that a pharmacy travel clinic may compete with and upset relations with existing private services offered by a local GP surgery.
Jay Patel, CIO and director, Day Lewis Pharmacy
It’s hugely important for pharmacists to embrace travel services. Offering travel vaccinations not only provides a route to generate extra income, but also a reason for new patients to come into the pharmacy. Travel is an ideal service for link selling. The opportunity is huge – you can offer suncare advice and sell a variety of travel products such as gastrointestinal medicine, rehydration salts and bite and sting relief products. Malaria prophylaxis can also be marketed. Certain patient groups, such as those going on Umrah and Hajj, can be targeted, as they require specific vaccinations for their journeys. It’s a real opportunity for the whole pharmacy team to position themselves as experts and help patients realise that pharmacies can be a reliable source of advice. Avicenna has developed a kit to help members launch and run their own travel service, as we understand that it can be overwhelming to go it alone.
Brij Valla, head of membership services, Avicenna
I would say there is a market for travel service in pharmacy. This is down not only to convenience, but also cost, as most surgeries charge for the service. It is also an ideal way of selling P and OTC travel products, such as loperamide, and suntan lotion.
Gary Jones, Pharmacist, Borth Pharmacy, Cardigan Bay
Having just completed the MASTA training, I am hoping that travel services will be very important! People are taking ever more adventurous holidays requiring cover against illnesses not seen in Europe, and diseases are spreading via our interconnected world so the requirements will only increase. As a service not available on the NHS and which takes up a reasonable amount of time, it isn't that popular with GPs so pharmacies are ideally placed to take up the slack. The upsides are that it builds pharmacy's reputation as a place to go for healthcare (and that of the individual pharmacist who carries it out), it is a revenue generator, it is outside the NHS so no clawbacks etc, and, for the patient, they aren't competing at the surgery for appointments with the rest of the surgery patients. The downsides are the time required for appointments, which can be onerous, the investment in the training, which is substantial, and the amount of stock that needs to be kept. Thought is also needed for pharmacist cover or planning around absence as some of the courses of injections take some weeks.
Kevin Western, pharmacist, Day Lewis, Colchester
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