A virtual GP surgery within a pharmacy

Naveed Razzaque, pharmacy operation manager at Fitzwilliam Pharmacy in Cambridge, explains why he has opened a virtual GP surgery in his consulting room.

As one of the oldest pharmacies in the country – it first opened in 1851 – the building we operate from is part of Cambridge University. At one time this pharmacy made the beeswax that was used to preserve old books on campus. Today we are an early adopter of a virtual GP surgery, which is attracting a growing number of international students from the campus.

Virtual GP consultations are gaining in popularity, so it is important that we tap into this phenomenon and offer our patients an innovative alternative. Patients are fed up of having to wait for an appointment to see their GP and are seeking alternatives that fit in with their busy day-to-day lives.

Given the financial challenges that our pharmacy faces – an experience shared by many pharmacies at this moment in time – we have taken virtual GP consultations a step further and opened a virtual GP surgery, called MedicSpot, in our consulting room.

Being an early adopter of this service was a logical choice. Our location in the heart of Cambridge sees many tourists and international students pass through our doors. Sometimes they’ve lost or run out of their medication, others have become unwell while visiting, or simply require medical attention for minor symptoms. For these groups, arranging an appointment with a GP is a complex, time-consuming process.

MedicSpot offers them a quick, easy and affordable way to see a private GP. Users don’t need to register and there are none of the long queues that are associated with NHS care.

Significantly cheaper

At £39 per appointment, our charge is significantly cheaper than that of the private doctors traditionally used by tourists.

The service is simple to use. Our patients speak to a doctor over a video link on a laptop, but what makes it so different from the usual virtual GP consultations is that the doctor can examine the patients via the clinical station because, with input from the patient, they can also use diagnostic equipment.

A stethoscope, pulse oximeter, thermometer, blood pressure monitor and medicam allow the doctors to perform full and thorough examinations, and the patients are further reassured that the pharmacy team is always on hand if assistance is needed.

The remote doctor issues a prescription to our pharmacy via email, which patients can collect immediately. If the particular product is not available, we are able to liaise with the doctor and provide an alternative. For urgent prescriptions, which tourists and international students often require, this is a great benefit.

Given the budgetary issues facing community pharmacies, it is vital that our pharmacy considers additional service offerings and continues to try to keep up with the latest innovations in the sector. It is imperative for a sustainable future that added value is provided to our local community.

The pharmacy's clinical station in action

Increased footfall

By implementing Medicspot, our service portfolio has expanded and footfall has increased as a result as new patients use the service.

Our virtual GP surgery improves our patients’ experience and the response has been extremely encouraging. We are promoting the service through local hotels and restaurants and via word of mouth.

Our local GP surgeries appreciate the service we are offering and sometimes refer temporary patients to us if they cannot see them. With MedicSpot developed by two GPs, we also see this as a way to improve collaboration between GPs and pharmacies, which is important moving forward.

We are adapting to the changing pharmacy world with technology being a key driver. In-store access to GPs may just help us reach the target market that is right on our doorstep.

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