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With more and more people booking last minute holidays and a lack of awareness of lead times for travel vaccinations, there’s an increasing number of travellers seeking travel advice at short notice.  This has resulted in a growing demand in the UK for pharmacists working in the community sector to become involved in the provision of vaccination and travel health services. 

The World Tourist Organisation expects worldwide tourist arrivals to increase by 1.8 billion by 2030[1] and in 2016, there were 70.8 million visits abroad by UK residents2. Travellers are put at increased risk of preventable diseases causing considerable medical and economic burden. Pre-travel advice can help to identify  means of reducing the risks to health of travelling; however, approximately 50% of people travel without any travel health advice and therefore are at risk of infection[3].

An audit of data from the Boots Travel Vaccinations and Health Advice service clearly shows the benefits of providing an option for travellers to access their travel health advice and vaccinations in the community pharmacy. The service was available at a selection of pharmacies representing a variety of locations, socioeconomic groups and types of pharmacy.  With an NHS England consultation on the appropriateness of expenditures on prescribing medicines (including travel vaccines) expected imminently, the future provision of travel vaccinations through the NHS is unclear. The key observations from the audit show that:

  • A high proportion of travellers visiting community pharmacies chose to pay for vaccines which they could receive for free on the NHS.
  • 42% of travellers accessing the community pharmacy service were last minute travellers (14 days or less to departure).
  • Community pharmacies offer convenience to travellers with longer opening hours and as a one stop shop for associated travel products.

Community pharmacy may become even more important in the provision of travel health medicines particularly if the NHS does stop the funding for travel vaccines.

Marc Donovan, Chief Pharmacist at Boots UK comments; “Many of our customers value the convenience of community pharmacy as a one stop shop for their travel health advice, so much so that they are more willing to pay than have to wait for an appointment at their local GP surgery.

“Interestingly, the majority of travellers were between 18-49 years of age and almost a quarter of all appointments were made over the weekend and outside of traditional hours.”    

 

  1. World Tourism Organization, Tourism towards 2030. Global overview 2011.
  2. Office for National Statistics. Travel trends: 2016. 2016  May 2017]; Available from: www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/articles/traveltrends/2016.
  3. Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG), . Protecting the health of travellers from the UK and Ireland. 2014  May 2017]; Available from: https://rcpsg.ac.uk/media/pa/P3/Files/Media%20Releases/11092014%20Health%20of%20travellers.pdf.