NPA members tell us about their life and times in community pharmacy, as part of the Association’s centenary celebrations.
When Shilpa Routledge wanted to open up her own pharmacy 33 years ago she had no idea how to go about it.
After qualifying in 1985 as a pharmacist, she went to work for Boots and did some locuming before being approached by a GP two years later, who asked her to open what is now Shil Pharmacy in Cwmbran, Wales.
“I thought yes, I want to do this but didn't know how to go about it,” Shilpa recalls.
It was then that she was advised by a colleague to approach the NPA.
“They were my first port of call when I was thinking of setting up my first business,” says Shilpa.
“When I contacted the NPA, they sent me lots of literature on who I should contact and their details, advice on how to set up a business, and how to go forward. They also explained how I should be approaching different suppliers because in those days, unless you had a supplier you wouldn't get the funding you needed.”
Shilpa and her staff pride themselves in providing an “individual service” to their customers and patients. She adds that they always make an effort to “go the extra mile” in resolving queries from patients and feels reassured the NPA is there to back her up.
“When I have a difficult query my first port of call is the NPA for medical advice, for legal advice, for any information. They've never let me down.”
Shilpa says that she and her staff often go out of their way to help vulnerable patients.
“There is one man in his 70s who has Alzheimer’s. He lives on his own but has difficulty taking his medications. We went through everything, to weekly boxes, to daily deliveries. He even has carers in, but he would never know where his meds were.”
Shilpa says she and her team eventually got the patient come into the pharmacy to take his medication while they supervised him.
“It didn't matter what time, day or night, he had to get into a routine of knowing to be in the pharmacy once a day and we would supervise him to make sure it was safe.
“I'd get him to sign it because if he came back again on the same day we'd tell him ‘you've already signed for it’. We didn't have to do all this but we did it out of concern. We had to. How else would he take his medication?”
Shilpa, who employs eight staff members, says she puts them all through the NPA training courses.
“I know there are lots of other courses and some which I could have done free, but I just feel the NPA offer the right training for my needs. They've always been spot on with training and development.”
The last year has been tough for the local community in Cwmbran who had to deal with a GP surgery closing down. It meant that more people are coming into Shil Pharmacy to ask for information and advice.
Shilpa says: “One local GP surgery closed down overnight in the housing estate due to the pandemic so where do patients go? The only place was the pharmacy. There have been certain occasion where I've had to go down and take the patients to another GP surgery for appointments because they couldn't get buses or taxis.
“Patients do feel they could come in and talk to me on common ailments which we could easily deal with.
“Throughout it all, the NPA’s Advice and Support service has been really helpful for us. Since the beginning of this pandemic when nobody is taking phone calls, the NPA have always been there.”
Moving forward Shilpa says she plans to provide more enhanced services like flu vaccines for the local community.
“We’re going to bring in more services because we're in an area that is very deprived. Patients here don't have the luxury of taking taxis to GP surgeries miles away. We have become the first port of call for a lot of patients, particularly the elderly.”
Want to tell your own story, as part of the NPA’s centenary celebrations? Contact [email protected]