This month we consider what makes community pharmacies Healthy Living Pharmacies, starting with Medipharm Pharmacy in Wickford, Essex. Its pharmacist manager Ahmed El-dabbagh provides his thoughts…
What makes a good Healthy Living Pharmacy?
Proactivity is the key to being a good HLP. We see it as our responsibility to reinforce public health messages and to offer information and support to all customers. We want the pharmacy to become the focal point for patient health.  
A good HLP will make sure that its staff are well informed – that they keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the world of health – and that they relay this information to their patients.  
Obviously excellent communication skills are essential to ensure that customers don’t feel intimidated to talk to any of the team about any issues they may have.  
It is also very important to reach out to the community outside of the pharmacy – we go to local church groups, schools and events to raise awareness of community health issues such as healthy eating, blood pressure and smoking cessation.
Talk a little bit about the clinical services you provide your community?
We provide many services within the pharmacy including blood pressure testing, weight management advice, EHC and smoking cessation support.  
We provide private PGDs on malaria, ED and flu vaccination. We are also very active in promoting safe sex advice to the under 25s and have been appointed C-card specialists which means we can give out condoms and advice to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs.
 An important part of our role is to assess all prescriptions clinically to make sure that all information is complete and correct so that no harm comes to the patient.  
The whole team is clinically aware of target patient groups, such as those with high blood pressure or diabetes, so that we can identify those patients who may need extra care and attention.
We aim to offer high quality treatments to patients by achieving the following: to be safe, effective, patient-centred, efficient, and equitable. These quality domains should be used in every aspect of contact between pharmacy profession and patient.
What advice would you give pharmacies that want to become a HLP?
I would encourage them to go for it! Having a healthy living ethos is the future of pharmacy and without that outlook, in my view, a pharmacy is incomplete.  
You need to have a positive attitude and embrace the concept, reaching out to patients to show them what you can offer in terms of preventative treatment. 
Set up a section in your pharmacy to promote healthy living, read the trade press to keep up to date with what is current.  
We have noticed that national health campaigns seem to have a big impact, so it’s good if you can tie in your in-store activity with a bigger issue.  
Of course you will also have to contact your local authority, have the appropriate training and nominate a staff member to become a Healthy Living Champion. Involving your staff is crucial for achieving healthy living success.
How many staff members do you have?
In the pharmacy we have five staff – 1 x ACT, 1 x HLC, 2 x CAs and a technician who also specialises in health and safety. I employ a driver for our prescription delivery service.  
Everyone knows our customers by name – we are like family. Our aim is to have a long partnership between us (the pharmacy team) and the patients with long term illnesses which includes management of medications, illness and definitely a healthy life style.
How long have you been a HLP?
We have had HLP status for about three years now. I think it has created more confidence between the staff and customers. 
Importantly the perception of the pharmacy has changed – patients don’t just visit the pharmacy to collect a prescription anymore, but for health advice from professionals that they can trust. It shows me how much the community relies on me and my team to support them day to day.
What are your thoughts on the future of community pharmacy?
The outlook for community pharmacy improves every day. What patients really want is personalised, high-quality care which is focused on their needs, and if we are to achieve this, community pharmacy services must transform fundamentally to meet the rising demand of public expectation. 
Of course the future is going to be about the types of services we can offer patients. Being a pharmacist is going to be more about how we can improve the outcomes for patients.  
We will be the main source of support for patients with long-term illnesses. I think the relationships we have with patients will become more similar to the relationships many patients have with their GPs. There is going to be a lot of longstanding care. I am looking forward to it!
Medipharm Pharmacy in Wickford, Essex, is an Avicenna-owned pharmacy