NPA members tell us about their life and times in community pharmacy, as part of the Association’s centenary celebrations.
Being known as the pharmacy that has been open every day for almost 70 years is a big reputation but the award winning Wicker Pharmacy staff take it in their stride.
The famous Sheffield pharmacy was established on 21 January 1952 and has been open every day ever since. The company was formed in 1951 (as Associated Chemists Ltd) to provide the people of Sheffield with an extended hours pharmacy service.
The pharmacy continues to be owned mostly by Sheffield pharmacists, but in 2012 ownership of part of the company was transferred to the staff via an employee ownership trust model. This means that over 75% of the business is owned by current or past employees, creating a deep connection and passion between the pharmacy, its staff, and most importantly, its community.
The company’s Chairman and Director of Wicker Pharmacy, Martin Bennett, joined the pharmacy in 1973, soon after becoming a pharmacist himself.
Martin, who was awarded an MBE in 2010 for services to pharmacy, says the employee ownership model encourages staff to become more involved in “their” pharmacy.
“We've always been a very open company and staff were always involved in decision making. The employee ownership scheme is to everyone’s benefit, so we do everything we can to make the pharmacy work.”
The pharmacy has 50 staff and expanded the premises which now covers numbers 55-67 in its street. Martin says there are some logistical challenges to be open every day, but their “dedicated” staff make it happen.
“There are many occasions that staff have come in to fill in for another colleague. We've had a lot of dedicated staff including colleagues who have been here for a very long time, so they've kept it going.”
Wicker Pharmacy have been NPA members for nearly 70 years and Martin, who has had a spell as an NPA board member, knows full well the benefits he gets for “being part of the club”.
“Back then it was almost inconceivable not to be an NPA member. You couldn't run the pharmacy as an independent without being a member.”
Martin says that this still remains the case today as the NPA provides “indemnity cover, expertise, a link to the sector, and feeling of being part of the club”
“You know that the NPA is looking after your interests as far as it possibly could,” he adds.
When Sheffield experienced a major flood in 2007, Martin felt the help they got from NPA Insurance was invaluable.
“They managed to sort it out and we got compensation early on. We were underwater and staff had to be rescued by boats but we were open by 9am the following day! We had a generator ready to keep things going, and our staff were magnificent arriving early to help clear the mess.
“With other insurers you feel they're looking after their own interests, but the NPA always looks at your side of the problem, without looking at how they can minimise the payment.”
When Martin had his two spells as an NPA board member in the 90s and the early 2000s, he says he was surprised to see the amount of NPA work that goes on behind the scenes.
“I was amazed at all the things that happen that you'd never hear anything about as a member.
Representation to government and policymakers in Europe, feeding into official consultations process and changing things before they ever became public. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes and I think some members perhaps don't know this. ”
In Martin’s office there is a picture of the original Wicker Pharmacy and how it looked before he joined nearly 50 years ago.
“It was just one little shop unit,” says Martin.
“The whole of the dispensary had liquid and powders and one little cupboard that contained tablets and capsules. Everything was made from scratch. My first job in the morning was making stock mixtures and that took up quite a lot of time.
“We didn't have typewriter or a calculator. It was a different time.”
As the pharmacy and technological landscape changed over the years Wicker Pharmacy made sure it adapted and was at the forefront.
“We introduced typewriters and then had mechanised shelving units. We were one of the very first pharmacies to get a labelling machine.
“Now we have two robots, 11 terminals, 11 workstations - everything's up to date. It’s still got to go further and be more integrated with the rest of the NHS but we’ll soon get there.”
Want to tell your own story, as part of the NPA’s centenary celebrations? Contact [email protected]