How would you describe your pharmacy?
My pharmacy is where my team and I serve the needs of the local community; we not only try and individualise our services but aim to build a good rapport with all of our customers. Professionalism and organisations are two elements we strive to achieve.
The chemist is built to meet everyone’s needs, an eye-catching, professional and simple layout that is clinically and professionally appropriate. We are supportive of many charity organisations, and work as a team to implement new ideas and initiatives. We greet customers with a smile, and always look at ways of helping customers to the best of our abilities.
Describe the area your pharmacy is in.
I work in a busy area where there is great multicultural diversity. A large proportion of my patients are of South Asian origin and many have language barriers.
I provide services that are targeted to this group such as the Community Vaccination Clinics for pilgrims travelling for Hajj and Umrah, and have multi-lingual staff who can communicate with them.
Alcohol and drug addiction are also key concerns in the area, with many hostels nearby and hence I provide supervised methadone and needle syringe exchange services.
What is the best and worst things about being a pharmacist?
The best thing about being a pharmacist is the role itself. Not only does it involve building a good rapport with patients, but we are able to form good relationships with other healthcare professionals. A lot of the time, we are the first point of call, and are able to advise and treat patients for their conditions or sign post them.
Working as a pharmacist, allows you to develop many skills including business skills which I really enjoy, it’s nice to be able to run a business and to get involved in managing staff, talking to patients, planning and introducing new services.
Our business has taken on many students, from secondary school, University and pharmacy pre-registration students. As a pharmacist, it’s great to be able to share your knowledge and help students progress and see how well they are doing.
I don’t think we can say there are worse things to being a pharmacist, but some of the tasks that make pharmacy difficult is the amount of paper work we have to do, trying to keep up to date with all the changes, continuous professional development and long hours of work makes looking for ‘spare time’ hard work.
There is a lot of pressure on pharmacists; every action in the pharmacy is under their direct supervision and a lot of ethical situations and we have to learn how to deal with them appropriately. The ability of making patients understand why you can’t supply a certain medication because it is out of stock, or the manufacture can’t supply has also been making our task very difficult in the last year.
Pharmacists are also under pressure to perform, as in any business model. Furthermore, with NHS funds being tightened due to austerity measures, pharmacists are under immense pressure to perform above their targets and to deliver efficient services that benefit patients and the business they work for.
Are pharmacists valued as healthcare professionals?
Pharmacists are valued in the healthcare team. As more patients turn to pharmacists as the first point of call for medical advice and last point of call when patients have seen the doctor, pharmacists are now seen as key stake holders in providing NHS healthcare.
It is important pharmacists utilise this position and improve the service they offer. By doing so, pharmacists will become more valued in the healthcare professional team.
Is independent pharmacy represented by the NPA, Pharmacy Voice and IPF strongly enough?
I believe that the NPA, IPF and Pharmacy Voice are working hard to represent independent pharmacy views; recently the NPA changed its membership to make it more exclusively for independent pharmacies.
With current problems with medication supplies and topics such as ‘de-criminalising’ dispensing errors’ these organisations have been great in voicing concerns collectively for independent community pharmacies.
However, we cannot solely rely on associations and groups to stand up for independent community pharmacists, many pharmacies have to now realise that to sustain their businesses they have to adapt to change and keep up to date with demands from the community they serve and to the contractor we all work for; the NHS.
How do you keep up to date on new products?
I keep up to date with new products through reading pharmacy business magazines; I use pharmacy websites such as the PSNC, NPA and Alliance Healthcare also. The OTC guide is very useful, but I always make sure I read the most updated version and speaking to colleagues I have found to be very useful.
What is your advice on running a good pharmacy?
The most important attribute to have is to be passionate about pharmacy. You need good organisation, communication and dedication. Having a good business mind; especially in a competitive healthcare sector like Pharmacy is essential. If you want to run a good pharmacy, you have to have great leadership, team-working and the drive to hopefully be the best you can be.
Where do you get your category management advice?
I get most category management advice from looking at looking through magazines that relate to category management that we receive from Alliance healthcare recently we have seen an increase in the number of reps from companies such as Reckitt Benckiser and GlaxoSmithKline, who have also helped in giving advice on category management.
How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?
Sales definitely are season orientated, for instance during the summer period I get more OTC sales for hay fever medicines whilst during the winter period I am selling more cough and cold preparations.
Moreover during the school period, I get a lot of parents coming and asking for head lice medicines, whilst during the school holidays minor ailments are common in children. Furthermore, during the winter, especially when leaving the house can be quite a struggle for some, OTC sales usually go down.
What part of the business is the most challenging to work in?
Keeping up to date with what is going on in pharmacy, completing all the necessary paperwork, keeping customers happy.
Our pharmacy is in a very competitive area, saturated with pharmacies, it’s important for us to maintain our foot flow of customers, this can be difficult but with good staff and hard work these challenges can be overcome.
No business is secure unless you plan a head a recent challenge for us as business is to also plan a head so we have a steady plan on how to progress the business.
Do you ever get customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?
Quite regularly, but I usually know what the products are as they are heavily advertised in all the pharmacy magazines. We are also lucky we see some good pharmacy reps in the area who are good at marketing these products.
But it is hard to keep up to date with all the new products being advertised and sometimes you do have to use google!! When customers ask you for a certain product they have seen on an advert.
If you were to give up pharmacy tomorrow, what would you do
I have become so passionate about pharmacy that I can’t imagine what I would do without it, maybe I would travel the world and do voluntary work and make good use of my Mpharm degree.