Raj Patel MBE, chief executive of Hollowood Chemists and NPA Board member reveals the successes he has had with the Kickstart scheme after applying to have 32 young people work in his pharmacies. Five of the kickstarters have already secured long term employment after they finish their placements. Here is what he had to say...
Covid-19 is the biggest public health crisis to face this country in living memory and to win the battle against this terrible virus, everyone has had to pull together.
When we faced workforce shortages in the middle of the pandemic due to staff having to self-isolate, we were faced with a serious problem.
This is when the Chancellor Rishi Sunak launched the Kickstart scheme in September – an initiative where the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pays wages and employment costs for a six-month job placement, for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment.
We thought this would be a great way for us to help young people get on the job ladder but also get extra resource in the pharmacy which was desperately needed at that time. I applied to get in 32 young people who have been working alongside my teams in our pharmacies in Greater Manchester. To say they were good is an understatement - we were amazed at their enthusiasm.
Whether it be helping serve customers over the counter, collecting repeat prescriptions or even helping in our vaccinations centres, the kickstarters really got stuck in.
We have set up three vaccination sites – in Wigan, Crewe and Haydock. The kickstarters have been helping as marshals, adding data to the outcomes for health portal, and helping keep the place hygienic by wiping down tables and chairs. They’ve fit right in with the other marshals and they were brilliant.
We didn’t expect our kickstarters to know a lot about pharmacy on day one - all we asked was for them to be humble and caring; that’s what patients need and require right now.
We do provide training however. When they leave they’ll have a dual qualification - as a Dispensary Assistant and also the Medicines Counter Assistant, via a course provided by the National Pharmacy Association.
Although we have had to put some work into training these Kickstarters, this government scheme has enabled community pharmacies like mine who have remained open throughout the last year, to boost our overstretched teams at no cost to ourselves.