by Gavin Birchall and Michael Ball
The Lancashire Vaccination Centre explores the delivery of vaccinations by community pharmacists in new settings. Located at a rugby club in Preston, we’re made up of a team of dedicated and experienced pharmacists, ACTs, pharmacy technicians, dispensers and support team who are committed to delivering the NHS flu vaccination programme in a community (but not community pharmacy) setting whilst maintaining the highest standard of care. 12 hours a day, seven days a week for 14 days (between 28th September to 11th October). The opportunity to take our established flu vaccination service off-site beyond our community pharmacy was an attractive challenge and a way to showcase what pharmacy teams are capable of.
Patient safety is our top priority and with a heightened awareness during the pandemic it’s an important priority for our patients too. We’ve worked hard to design COVID-19 safe premises and processes, giving confidence to our team and patients alike. It’s a careful balance between putting in place measures that are evident to all but don’t overpower the experience, cause alarm or reduce efficiency. We’ve designed a ‘no touch’ patient journey and aimed to make sure only their shoes come into contact with the centre as a guiding principle. Contracting COVID is causing so much anxiety for people that it may ultimately put them off from going out and getting the flu vaccine – giving COVID safe confidence was critical. The centre has a welcome point which serves as a sanitation station, a reception, four consultation rooms each of around 5m x 4m and an online booking system in place all aiming to maximise efficiency, minimise length of visit and patient to patient contact.
We’ve based ourselves at Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club which may seem an odd choice. However, it lies just off Junction 32 of the M6 motorway, so is really easily accessible via car and has extensive parking.
Despite having large pharmacy premises, we realised that delivering mass flu vaccination this year would be a real challenge. We needed more space to manage patient flow safely. The layout of the club is perfect for us to ensure a one-way system for our patients, who enter through the main reception area and exit from the rear of the large function suite we are occupying. We have designed and invested in a purpose built space to provide the right feel for patients and to enable us to really manage how people use the space.
This centre is one of the first of its kind in this country and we’ve had people visit here from all over Lancashire and from other areas across the UK. The feedback we’ve had so far during the programme has been outstanding, having received a Net Promoter Score that’s currently over 94. Another way of looking at that is that over 97% of patients have given us 9 or 10 out of 10. We are very happy that much of the feedback relates to the care and professionalism of our team and we are really proud of them. It’s pivotal that we continue to get as many of those at high risk from flu to get a vaccine as soon as possible. Interestingly, we’ve found that around 50% of our bookings are from the hard to reach groups under the age of 65, so may have found a delivery model that suits those groups more closely. The impact of COVID-19 means that the flu season could have a huge impact on the NHS and our communities, so it is important for as many people as possible from all backgrounds to get vaccinated.
What can we achieve?
Having been proactive with flu jab services in recent years, the extended programme for 2020 gave us an opportunity to try a new delivery model with the aim of driving uptake. We started to plan our approach at the beginning of Summer allowing us to speculate and secure enough stock to be able to vaccinate around 700 people a day over this period, whilst working under the same guidelines as any other community pharmacy. There was an element of speculation involved, especially about permission to vaccinate off-site, but we are pleased that this has paid off.
There are so many opportunities for community pharmacies to become involved in vaccination services in the future and we are ambitious about pushing the boundaries about what pharmacists can do and where. With the potential rollout of a covid-19 vaccine in the coming months, we hope that pharmacy is recognised as one of the providers who can contribute to the national programme. These are unpredictable and challenging times, every healthcare profession has the opportunity to rise to the task and demonstrate what they are capable of. Pharmacy can, does and will have a strong future if we make it so.
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