Graham Phillips, owner of Manor Pharmacy Group, talks to Pharmacy Business about his business in Hertfordshire …

How would you describe your pharmacy?
Our individual branches are a community resource, tailored to the local needs of the communities they serve. Taken as a whole, we have developed Manor Pharmacy Group as a virtual “pharmacist-led group practice” exactly like a GP group practice – so we support and challenge each other, bounce ideas of each other and aim to share “best practice.”

How long have you been a pharmacist?
Forever! My dad is a community pharmacist. My earliest memories are mixing up “mist mag trisil” from “pulv pro” in giant pestle-and-mortar aged about seven in his pharmacy. (I don’t think clinical governance had been invented back then…or SOPs!)

Describe the area your pharmacy is in.
In a Herts village. It really is the epicentre of village life. We see everyone, we know their first names, their dog’s names, the names of their grandchildren and the size of their haemorrhoids!

What is the best and worst thing about being a pharmacist?
The best? The satisfaction of knowing we have touched many peoples’ lives in a positive way. (Every Christmas we are literally deluged with cards and bottles of wine from our grateful customers and patients.)
The Worst? A lack of recognition from the NHS for what we do. The current pressure is unsustainable – the pressure cooker that is community pharmacy is threatening to explode.

Are pharmacists valued as healthcare professionals?
Yes! Plenty of research shows we are highly valued even more than doctors and nurses. The only more-trusted profession? Firemen!

What is your advice on being a good pharmacist?
Professionalism is all (if you are not a member of the RPS Royal College for Pharmacy, then why not?). Do “the right thing,” ensure you have the requisite business and professional skills and pharmacy can be a wonderful career.

How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?
Very little! Most of our income is from the NHS – serving people with long-term conditions. We have a small peak in December but there’s remarkably little over all variation.

What is your view on funding and the role of the PSNC?
Our contract is not fit for purpose. It is full of perverse incentives and does not deliver sustainable funding. The PSNC? They treat contractors like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed on bull-s**t).

What part of the business is the most challenging to work in?
I think our medicines counter assistants are the unsung heroes of pharmacy. They are the real “front line” and the evidence is patients chose their pharmacy first on its location and second on the relationship with counter staff. I cannot thank them enough or praise them too highly.

Do you ever get customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?
Yes, rarely but it's usually the Daily Mail that’s the culprit. Why do Daily Mail readers believe everything they read?

If you were to give up pharmacy tomorrow, what would you do?
I have no plans to quit. I’m enjoying my practice too much. But when I retire I’ll spend more time driving my classic Porsche and going to live jazz.

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