Farah Ali, general manager at Warman-Freed pharmacy, talks to Pharmacy Business about the pharmacy in Golders Green…
How would you describe your pharmacy?
Warman-Freed pharmacy has been a pillar of the Golders Green community since the 1950s. It offers a comprehensive pharmacy service seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Recently, it has become the UK’s first ‘learning pharmacy’ with a focus on establishing insights and intelligence that can improve the day-to-day running of a typical community pharmacy.
Our fundamental aim is to provide business, technology and operations knowledge to benefit everyone across the pharmacy industry – while still making a profit!
How long have you been a pharmacist?
I have been a pharmacist for 20 years now, working within the retail community sector.
Describe the area your pharmacy is in?
Golders Green is an area with a high life expectancy. This area has the greatest proportion of older people living alone compared to the rest of the borough, and also has a large Jewish and Muslim community.
Hypertension, diabetes and obesity are common in Golders Green, with the rates well above the national average.
What are the best and worst things about being a pharmacist?
The most enjoyable aspect for me is when I know I have made a difference to a patient and they have left my pharmacy with a positive attitude to me and my profession.
This can be from providing advice, sale of a product, advice on services from other HCP that can help or information around services I provide or are available within the health sector. The frustrating elements are when I am limited or undervalued within my role in offering a customer advice, a product or service I know I have the same capability and knowledge to provide as any other HCP.
What is your advice on being a good pharmacist and running a good pharmacy?
For me there are a number of key factors, of which three are important: enjoy your work, understand your pharmacy, its customers and your staff and be honest.
These things have shaped my business so that I am able to be a trusted and valued pharmacist, manage my business and challenge my team to deliver the best we can.
How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?
Immensely. The milder winter last year caused the allergy season to start very early. This was a sudden variation which led to increased customer demand for key allergy products – we sold out of our one a day anti-histamines over the Easter weekend.
This was our busiest time of the year as we are one of a very few pharmacies open over the whole Easter weekend.
Demand was greater than anticipated and lack of stock holding led to lost sales. Because the team weren’t fully trained, they were unable to engage with customers and recommend other products so we did not convert any of the lost sales.
What part of the business is the most challenging to work in?
The dispensary definitely. It is an unpredictable and very challenging environment at times. It requires great organisation, process adherence and smart ways of working to ensure it runs smoothly, effectively and efficiently.
As dispensing intensity can vary through the day I need to be aware of all processes, team members’ activities and have an ear to the healthcare counter to intervene with consultations.
Do you ever get customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?
Quite often, at times customers seem to have seen an advert even before we have the item in stock. Most occasions I have been aware of new launches, but if it is an exclusive product to a multiple then sometimes I may not have had the information and so have had to research it when customers ask for it.
If you were to give up pharmacy tomorrow, what would you do?
I’d be lost I think. I can’t imagine doing anything other than this. That said, I used to have a passion for fashion design, so perhaps I would follow that path.