Magdalena Bogdan is a pharmacy leader who has maintained her focus despite the turmoil engulfing pharmacy. The Pharmacy Business award winner talks to Neil Trainis…
Magdalena Bogdan is similar to many others who work in community pharmacy. She, like others who sweat for the cause in the name of patient health in and around the dispensary, has managed to retain her poise and focus whilst resisting hot-headed anger at what the government is doing to her profession.
The one-time pharmacy manager of a branch of Day Lewis in Ledbury, which won the Pharmacy Business Team of the Year award last year, understands only too well the mistakes short-sighted ministers are making à la funding cuts and hub and spoke dispensing.
She is concerned about the impact of the £170 million cut. She is worried for the future of the profession in which she has made a decisive impact. Yet Magdalena's eyes are on the future.
Since overseeing the pharmacy team at Ledbury, she has moved on to become deputy regional manager at Day Lewis with responsibility for the north of England. It is an exciting future.
“I was promoted to deputy regional manager (at Day Lewis) for the north where I oversee 40 pharmacies. Last year I was introduced to the role and in January it happened step by step,” she says in enthusiastic reflection.
“It was not really a surprise. I was thinking about doing this kind of role. You can make a difference. I love the new role.
“The (Pharmacy Business) award was one of many, many we achieved. We've been outstanding. But I love my new role. It's demanding and very challenging. And it's very different.
“In the new role, we've had acquisitions. We have acquired new people who have new attitudes and new ideas of how to do things. You need to ensure they fit in with the Day Lewis attitudes and mentality.”
One imagines the north is in good hands. After all, Magdalena built a fantastic team at Ledbury to ensure the pharmacy delivered the best possible services for its local population.
They were in sync to provide commissioned services such as EHC, minor ailments, flu vaccinations, stop smoking and weight management services, travel vaccinations, medication and contraception. There was much to be proud of, particularly Ledbury's use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote health campaigns.
“I managed to keep them together as a team and mix with customers and provide a wide range of services. I remember we had a Facebook and Twitter account at Ledbury. And we ran a Healthy Living Pharmacy at Ledbury,” Magdalena recounts. Under her leadership, they also teamed up with the Purple Angel dementia awareness campaign to support people with memory loss.
She is asked what makes a good, effective pharmacy manager. “A good pharmacy manager? You need to be practical, look at how pharmacy is changing. You should work with charities such as Marie Curie.
“We were very close locally with them, holding special open days with them. You need to look at the bigger picture and work with local organisations.”
Expanding into the local community is the key for pharmacy's survival. Holistic healthcare is the name of the game. Expansion means increasing the pharmacy's profile. And that means community pharmacists need to be au fait with social media.
Magdalena is asked if she thinks pharmacists should be using social media platforms more to promote themselves.
“It's where the future is. You have to be very careful. It can be quite dangerous and you have to maintain safety. You need to know what to post about yourself. But I would definitely recommend social media. Absolutely, 100%. It can promote the business. I would agree with that.
“I don't think pharmacists promote themselves enough. We look at the NHS, we manage medicines, it can open the way for the public.”
Pharmacy's future stirs the imagination. Yet there have been rough knocks. A Guardian investigation recently alleged that Boots managers were pressurising staff to conduct MURs on each other and on patients who do not need them in order to hit commercial targets.
There were fears within pharmacy that the article, for all its journalistic value, might actually be damaging to the pharmacy profession as a whole through the eyes of those who subscribe to the view that where's there's smoke, there's fire.
What if commissioners or MPs were given the impression that if Boots was engaging in such commercial exploitation, other pharmacies and chains might be? How damaging might that be?
“I've been asked that before. It's a shame it happened. It did have some kind of effect. You come across so many patients because of the article who stopped taking their medication,” Magdalena says.
“We didn't come across that response from our patients. We did well with the MURs. It's fine to uncover things but I don't think everything was well explained in the article as it was one-sided.
“Nothing was covered about the positives about MURs. It was about 'I was paid. It's a business…' It wasn't well explained very well, that we are getting into the clinical side, not only dispensing.”
If pharmacy's reputation was unharmed, its very future may well be plunged into doubt if ministers persist on slashing its budget by £170 million for 2016-17 and more beyond that post-Alistair Burt.
The National Pharmacy Association did its bit with a large petition of over two million signatures but it feels as though destiny will be hard to alter.
“The petition went very well. As far as I'm concerned, nothing has yet happened but they (the government) should still review the cuts. It's so difficult with all the money taken away from us,” Magdalena says.
“I don't think that pharmacy is in the same position as GPs. We're far behind. (The government) didn't take any money away from GPs. Their lobby is stronger than ours.
“If you look at MPs who support GPs and MPs who support pharmacy, someone mentioned to me only two names who support pharmacy.”
One man who would have doubtless continued to fight the government tooth and nail on its pharmacy efficiency measures was Kirit Patel. Magdalena met the Day Lewis founder on more than one occasion. His untimely death at 67 from a suspected heart attack left a huge void.
“I knew him very well. I'm extremely upset. I can't say in words how upset to be honest. The pharmaceutical world will not be the same,” she says.
“He was an inspiration. He was very passionate. For me, it was devastating. It was an absolute devastation. He prepared us for a new journey. He was a wonderful businessman but he was always supporting the pharmacy world.
"He was amazing.”