True contentment perhaps comes from a deep-seated sense of accepting who and where you are.
Superintendent pharmacist Sachin Kirit Shah exudes a sense of calmness that befits those who have figured out how to live in the moment.
“If I ever get stressed, I turn to my wife,” he said.
Sachin isn’t at all aloof but is clearly “unfazed” by the new circumstances and uncertainty that surround the profession at present.
I met him on a grey, but not necessarily grim, day in his pharmacy near Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire.
Situated in a local precinct of shops, Jackmans Pharmacy is in the heart of the local community – serving a very deprived population on a large council estate, about a mile away from the town centre.
Since all GP surgeries relocated into the centre of Letchworth, his pharmacy on Jackmans Estate is now the first port of call for the community when they have any health needs, especially when the waiting time in the surgeries is over a week.
Happy to reinvent the wheels, Sachin ready for more in-depth, valuable, patient-centred and preventative work for the community, but someone needs to be willing and ready to fund the services, he said.
“I feel there are a lot of services we could offer here that would help our local population because of their needs. There are high rates of obesity, smoking and early pregnancy on this estate.
“Blood pressure monitoring service could be an important one too. When men in their 40s and 50s come to pick up medicines for the family, we could easily engage them in a conversation and offer blood pressure testing.”
“We had EHC (emergency hormonal contraception) services stopped by our local council because of funding issues.”
Sachin and his team actively support their patients with their medication by getting in touch when they need to order their next prescription.
This way the patient remains in control with a reduced risk of going without their medication.
EPS has therefore been hugely beneficial for Sachin, as all the patients just leave it to the pharmacy to obtain their script and have it ready for when they need it.
In 2018, GP surgeries in Letchworth decided to stop issuing any new seven-day prescriptions, which put more financial pressure, as the pharmacy was providing the majority of their patients with the Dossett system. But the pharmacy sailed through the difficulty.
“We recently had a patient who was really suffering with their arthritis and unable to take medication. As a short-term solution, we currently put her tablets in a dossette box for her. We spent time explaining how it works and the benefits it will bring for her as she deals with the pain in her hands.”
Jackmans dispenses more than 7,000 items per month, which is much higher than pharmacies located in the town centre and close to the surgeries.
Sachin said: “Our patients know that they will see the same people when they walk into the pharmacy. We have built a strong reputation for delivering excellent quality of care to suit the healthcare needs of our local community for over 10 years.
“Staff at some of the surgeries recommend us to patients looking for good service. And from this we have customers coming to us from the other side of Letchworth.”
In the previous flu season, the pharmacy delivered around 450 vaccinations, which was higher than any other local pharmacy.
“We were recognised by the Hertfordshire LPC as a high performer for the NHS fl u vaccination service. We do not have an appointment system we just run a walk-in policy.”
But the start of the flu season is also when the pharmacy gets swamped.
“A day when you are happy to close the front door because of the number of people that can come through. I end up doing up to 50 vaccines on such days, on top of doing everything else,” he said.
In addition to the flu jabs, Sachin also runs a free blood pressure service and lifestyle advice. The pharmacy offers a free, quick and confidential chlamydia test to all young adults aged between 15 and 24 years.
Because there is a lot of drug abuse on the estate, demand for supervised methadone and buprenorphine are quite high.
But he feels services like private PGDs (patient group directions) or travel clinic won’t work for him because a lot of people who live on the estate don’t even own a passport.
“That’s why we need funded services which people don’t have to pay for.”
Sachin realises that pharmacy is increasingly becoming more service-driven now then when he was doing his pre-reg at Northwick Park Hospital in North West London in 2011. And he does anticipate more pharmacy closures and mergers in the years ahead.
“I don’t think it fazes me that much. Of course, I don’t want us in 10 years to still being this reliant on dispensing, I want to move away on to services. I realise we have to adapt. If we are given the tool, we can adapt.
“As a sector we will have to make big changes. I don’t mind making those changes, if push comes to shove. But it will take us some time to get there.”
When asked what the unique selling point of Jackmans Pharmacy was, Sachin was quick to put it down to his team of five extremely hard-working health professionals who slug it out six days a week in a busy pharmacy.
“Our staff have been with us for over 10 years, they also live on the estate so know nearly everyone who comes in. We pride ourselves on knowing our patients’ names and making them our priority. This is our selling point, customer service! We go out of our way and make sure that people leave happy.”
This strong link with the community means it’s easier for the pharmacy to reach out to and provide services to the community such as when they want to quit smoking.
“We have a very good stop smoking quit rate and are always helping customers break the habit and quit.”
Sachin reminisced about helping a 92-year old man quit smoking.
“His wife had recently passed way and he felt like he would want to give up smoking because that’s what the missus would have liked him to do.”
He saw the nonagenarian at least once a week and gave him as much emotional support as he could and kept trying out a variety of means such as gums, sprays and patches.
Within about two weeks his elderly patient stopped smoking and didn’t smoke until he passed away on the cusp of his 100th birthday.
Sachin’s joy of making a positive difference was palpable. Contentment indeed is happiness!
Sachin Shah won the Pharmacy Business Community Award 2019, which was sponsored by Sigma Pharmaceuticals.
This article also appears in the March issue of Pharmacy Business.