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BBC show puts spotlight on community pharmacy

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The One Show on BBC One has put community pharmacy in the limelight, showcasing the sector’s vital work during the pandemic to a primetime TV audience.

The five minute segment, aired on May 10, featured Sutton pharmacist Reena Barai and a reception at St. James’s Palace for around 200 pharmacists, including Barai, hosted by the Prince of Wales on May 4.

“It was great to be part of such a positive story,” Barai, who is a board member of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said.

“It’s heartening that the national media are taking notice of the sector, because it’s too often overlooked. Coverage like this both reflects public opinion and shapes it, that’s why the NPA works so hard on keeping us in the public eye.”

The segment told the story of community pharmacy’s role during the pandemic and contained footage of a speech by the Prince of Wales, praising the sector for its contribution to the nation’s healthcare.

“Pharmacists are about people and places, not just pills, a place where science, as it were, meets society. I just want to thank you all, more than I can possibly say, for everything you do so brilliantly to keep people well, and above all, save lives. Thank you, everybody,” Prince Charles is seen saying at the reception.

Reena Barai (Photo: BBC Screengrab)

The show took a deeper look the sector by detailing the work done by Barai at her pharmacy, a family business of 43 years, which included dropping medicines to those who were shielded and delivering Covid jabs, among others.

“Covid has brought about the biggest change in [NHS’] history. We’ve seen people coming in when other parts of the NHS have not been so accessible,” she told the show.

“We’re the only healthcare professional where you don’t need an appointment. You can just walk in.”

Local resident Phil Roberts believes this is what saved his life. He stepped into the pharmacy as he couldn’t get an appointment with his doctor when he felt ill playing golf.

“I came down here; Reena sat me down and took my blood pressure. It was high. She said, ‘please, please go up the hospital. Reena prevented me having a stroke, of that there’s no doubt,” he has said.

The show notes that almost half of the Brits are more likely to go to their pharmacist than visit the GP, which saves doctors up to 24 million appointments a year.

“Over the last couple of years, pretty much everybody in this room has been working excessive hours. Some of them are still working excessive hours today. And it’s fantastic for him (the Prince of Wales) to actually recognise that,” NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette told the show during the reception.

The trade body worked with the BBC team for weeks to help make the show.

“The One Show is a flagship BBC programme and the demographic of its millions of viewers closely matches that of pharmacy users. I hope lots of pharmacists and pharmacy staff watch the item back and share via social media, as this is a great advert for the sector,” Stephen Fishwick, NPA head of communications, said.

The programme can be seen on BBC iPlayer here.

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