Umakant Patel talks to Pharmacy Business about his pharmacy, Dunn’s Chemist, in Cranford…

How would you describe your pharmacy?
My pharmacy has been recently refitted with the state of Alphega design and colour scheme. It is very spacious with air conditioning, two dispensaries, a consulting room and a large staff and stock room. The IT system consists of EPOS and four station PMR system. As we were one of the first to adopt the Alphega ‘franchise’ we regularly get visitors from all over the world coming to see how it operates in the UK community pharmacy.

How long have you been a pharmacist?
42 and still batting. Hope to make half century!

Describe the area your pharmacy is in
The pharmacy is in Cranford, on the busy A4, just over a mile from Heathrow Airport, with a large residential population from all over the world working mainly at Heathrow. Several hotels are in the vicinity catering for all from no frills to five-star.

What is the best and worst things about being a pharmacist?
The best thing is that you can combine both professionalism and commerce. You can be your own boss partially as the main boss lives in No 11 Downing Street.
The worst is that the public think of us as only as a shopkeeper. But while we have a shop it is not surprising. We as a profession have not done enough to change this view.

Are pharmacists valued as healthcare professionals?
Millions who consult pharmacist daily value the accessibility and the professional advice. However in view of the extensive   education and training, pharmacists are not valued as much as they should be. This is a consequence of the historical evolution of pharmacy and the way we are remunerated all over the world for supply function. We are the most accessible of all health professionals. Economist would argue that it is the very accessibility that devalues us. The future is in the development of the professional role away from the supply side.

What is your advice on being a good pharmacist and running a good pharmacy?
My advice is aim for the highest possible standards in personal appearance, behaviour, and work. It is very important to be neat and tidy and set the best example to every one around you. Never expect anyone to do what you are not prepared to do yourself. Professionally be honest and only advocate what is good enough for one self.

How much do your sales depend on seasons and weather?
For most suburban pharmacies the counter trade is 10-20% of the total, so in reality it is a loss maker. Although there is seasonal variation, overall it is fairly flat. In the summer one would sell more summer products such as antihistamines, while in the winter remedies such as cough mixtures sell more. Most pharmacies survive because of the NHS, without it we would disappear like the local butcher, fishmonger, baker etc.

What part of the business is the most challenging to work in?
The most challenging aspect is making the best of minimal resources available for the relentless volume of work.

Do you ever get customers asking for products they have seen on TV that you know nothing about?
I do get customers asking for products they have seen on TV that I have not heard of, as I do not watch a lot of commercial TV. Although I may not have heard of the trade name, the ingredients are not novel. Increasingly people ask for the products they have read about on the Internet, or what they have bought overseas while on holiday. Also a lot of tourists come from the hotels with unfamiliar medication, which they need especially if they are stranded with cancelled flights due to snow, volcano, coup de’etat, hurricanes etc.

If you were to give up pharmacy tomorrow, what would you do?
If I gave up pharmacy I would probably indulge more in my hobby of collecting single malt whiskies and drink a lot more than is good for my liver and get on my wife’s nerves. So I am better off in the dispensary.