Bedminster Pharmacy in Bristol has a team of leaders each capable of spearheading better health outcomes in the city. Its award-winning pharmacist talks to Neil Trainis…
“A lot of what we do is a real credit to those individuals and the way they work together as a team. They care for you, they really care for you,” Ade Williams says as he ponders how his award-winning collective at Bedminster Pharmacy improves the health of the people who walk through its doors.
One imagines ameliorating the well-being of people in a district situated in the south of Bristol, a city that has its fair share of deprivation not to mention social and healthcare challenges, would not be easy. Especially a city as ethnically diverse as Bristol, lavished as it is with numerous languages and cultures.
Between January 2002 and March 2016 some 81,600 national insurance numbers were issued to non-UK nationals according to Bristol City Council.
The largest proportion of those, 18%, was given to Polish nationals. Other nations handed over 3,000 NI numbers in Bristol during that period include Spain (8,500), India (4,200), Italy (4,000), France (3,700) and Romania (3,400).
The challenges of a multi-cultural society whose inhabitants have their own social and healthcare needs, some more complex than others, has not put Bedminster Pharmacy off its stride. Their team, rich in a variety of languages, cultures and life experiences, have risen to those challenges.
“It’s a natural thing, all part of a normal conversation. It’s about relating to people. If you’re going to be in the community, it’s about people. You’ve got to immerse yourself in that community. You can’t talk down to people. You need to be a part of their lives,” Ade says.
“People here go out of their way to be a part of their lives. They get involved in the local community, do stuff like blood pressure checks, get out and provide that professionalism. When you’re talking to people there shouldn’t be anything in there you should be dismissing.”
There are five members of the Bedminster Pharmacy team including Ade. He insists every single one of them is a leader in their own right and those leadership qualities are in many ways shaped by their personal experiences.
“One of my colleagues is diabetic and she tells me how that affects her life and things like driving. She has been able to relate that to her patients, her life experience of that.
“We are constantly reviewing the way we do things. We don’t have a hierarchy, we don’t let anyone dictate. Everyone is part of the same team. We are always looking for a better way of doing things. We discuss things and the team bring their life experiences into that. It brings a fresh approach to doing things.
“I think it works well. We have leaders in our team, they take leadership of programmes, designing them and rolling them out. We constantly review our processes.
“You have to be willing to trust people even if you know they’ll make mistakes. You’ve got to work with them.”
Ade is asked for an example of how his team of leaders has spearheaded a service or made a difference to the local community’s healthcare.
“Smoking cessation is one example,” he says without even thinking. “Our pharmacy technician leads that service. She is a native Polish speaker as well.
“She is very proactive and uses her own life experiences in this area because, culturally, smoking may be embedded (in the Polish culture). She is able to identify patients.
“We have incontinence services as well. We have a pharmacy technician who trains everyone about it, does the ordering, the commercial side of it. We try to empower them. She is a carer as well which means she has a lot of experience caring for people.”
Ade is proud of his team’s ability to handle the diversity of their local community. “The team speaks about 10 languages. Our Polish technician used to be in France and picked up a bit of Spanish as well. We also have multi-lingual signs in the (pharmacy’s front window.)
“In the team we speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay, Italian, Hungarian, Russian.” With a chuckle Ade adds: “Oh and a bit of English as well.”
He is asked if Bedminster’s clientele includes refugees from war-torn Syria.
“We have some areas of high deprivation,” he says. “Not so much (Syrian refugees), not in our part of the city. More in the east of the city. But we are very multi-cultural.”
Because Bedminster has a strong focus on clinical services dispensing is a relatively small part of Ade’s business. His pharmacy is a Healthy Living Pharmacy. June, its Healthy Living Champion, is the brainchild behind the pharmacy’s displays which catch the eye as you walk in.
As Richard Brown, the Pharmacy Business Awards judge who works at Avon Local Pharmaceutical Committee which has facilitated much of the training Bedminster’s team attends, observed following his visit to the pharmacy, her displays have got “the local population talking about health.”
Not everyone has been a fan of the HLP concept. Joseph Bush, a lecturer in pharmacy practice at Aston University, once said “evidence that HLP accreditation improves (health) outcomes is slim to non-existent.” Ade is not swayed by that argument.
“With Healthy Living Pharmacy, which is being run under the quality payment scheme…HLP gives you the potiental to maximise the strength of your team,” he insists.
“If you have a desire to change your business and the outcomes for your community you’ll do that. The best pharmacies in the area are HLP pharmacies.
“When commissioners are deciding to commission services they look at HLPs. They are very, very keen to commission from HLPs. They look at the evidence and see what that brings to health outcomes.”
Whether one chooses to believe in the benefits of HLP accreditation or not, Ade and his team have worked hard at promoting alcohol, smoking, weight management and sexual heath services to their community.
Their proactive approach, getting out into their community and promoting healthy living, has had tangible results. One alcoholic patient, supported by Bedminster, gained enough motivation to stop drinking.
It is tempting to ask Ade what advice he has for other community pharmacists who have not quite nailed down the effective pharmacy collective.
“One lesson we have learnt is the key person is not the pharmacist but the team. And you must embrace the community, get out there. Invest in the team, get local politicians and charities involved.”
The future at Bedminster feels clear. The pharmacy’s modus operandi is simple yet effective. Yet the future of community pharmacy as a profession will not be without its political hindrances.
A high court decision to preserve the government’s funding cuts saw to that. Ade is asked if the PSNC or National Pharmacy Association should appeal the decision.
“It’s a difficult call. It was a very brave decision and I’ve got to pay credit to the PSNC and NPA for doing what they did.
“We are not fighting for what we have. We are fighting for what we will have in the future.I think we will have to carry on fighting. If it’s a legal one, I have confidence in people making the decisions.
“It’s more than the cuts, it’s about protecting the community pharmacy network. (The PSNC and NPA) have shown that they are willing to fight for us.”