'A really interesting job': A life in pharmacy

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'A really interesting job': A life in pharmacy

Last Friday Associated Chemists (Wicker) celebrated its 70th anniversary of offering a seven-days-a-week extended hours service as an independent pharmacy in Sheffield’s east end.

Wicker Pharmacy managing director and chairman Martin Bennett MBE spoke to Pharmacy Network News about how the business has evolved and the issues it is currently facing.

Mr Bennett, who has worked at the award-winning pharmacy since 1973, told PNN that pharmacy practice has “changed dramatically” since he joined. “We didn’t have such a thing as a calculator, let alone a computer - now we’ve got robots on the premises.

“We are changing from what in effect was manufacturing to a much more clinical service.”

Mr Bennet said the pharmacy supports over 200 patients on drug addiction treatment, and has delivered over 25,000 Covid vaccinations in eight months.

“To my mind it’s a really interesting job, it’s not for everybody but there’s never a dull moment.

“I think the thing that’s interesting about it all is solving problems for people,” he said adding that the company’s employee-owned business model allows it to be flexible and helps staff have a say in how it is run.

“If there’s any new service coming along then someone will say, let’s try this out – and that makes the job more interesting in my mind.

“It also makes it challenging but so be it – you’re providing a useful service to the community.”

Staff shortages

The pharmacy is currently being hit severely by staff shortages, Mr Bennett said a few days before Health Education England launched its workforce report revealing the number of pharmacist positions going unfilled in 2021.

“These shortages are partly due to Covid, but more because we’re losing staff who are going to work in PCNs, CCGs and GP surgeries for a nine to five job.

“The appeal of working in the evening and weekends is waning.”

“We’ve lost two pharmacists to primary care networks in the last two months, as well as two accuracy checking technicians – replacing them is very difficult.’”

He said the “inadequate” remuneration system means “we can’t attract new staff, because pay rates aren’t adequate for the job we want them to do”.

‘Essential’ to renegotiate contract

This year, Mr Bennett hopes to “continue on the path that we’re on: providing services, expanding them and having sufficient money to be able to do that”.

“The problem is that to provide a quality service in the range that we’ve got I don’t believe the current remuneration system is adequate.

“We’ve had a lot of nice comments from, people about the services we provide, the general public is very appreciative – but they don’t understand the finance of it all.

“It’s partly worsened by the fact that to achieve what we’ve done we’ve had to invest a lot in property, training, IT and in particular two very expensive robots.

“We’ve put all this in and then we’ve got a 15 per cent cut… it’s absolutely essential that the contractual terms are revised.”

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