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Pharmacy is a team game


Pharmacy is a team game

With a big list of services and a growing dispensing business, Shelley’s Pharmacy in Birmingham, led by Muhammad Zaheer, were crowned Pharmacy Team of the Year at the House of Commons. Saša Janković caught up with him...

Muhammad Zaheer bought Shelley’s Pharmacy in Birmingham in 2021 – just ten years after qualifying as a pharmacist – and he and his team of five staff, a second pharmacist and two delivery drivers have transformed the business since then.

Serving a diverse group of patients, particularly low-middle class families in Birmingham which has a large BAME population and younger age profile, the pharmacy now dispenses an average of 9,600 items a month with a turnover expected to exceed £1.3 million, which is testament to its success in meeting the healthcare needs of the area.

The pharmacy has strong competition from nearby establishments but its commitment to serving the community sets it apart, with Muhammad’s independent prescriber annotation, and the recent addition of a second consultation room, playing a vital role.

As well as providing pharmacy services including NMS, smoking cessation and the Discharge Medicine Service, Shelley’s has an impressive record of delivering covid and flu vaccinations, with over 16,000 Covid vaccinations and 3,000 flu jabs administered since October 2021.

Stepping up to meet the needs of their community, Muhammad also offers private PGD services including a travel clinic, microsuction, weight management, hearing tests and otoscopy ear examinations, and is keen to integrate as many additional pharmacy services as he can – such as the ABPM hypertension case-finding service, with which he carries out around 80 ABPM measurements a month.

The pharmacy has also successfully implemented the NHS England & Improvement Midlands Region Community Pharmacy Extended Care Service, conducting over 500 consultations in the last 12 months. This includes over 200 consultations solely for urinary tract infections where antibiotics were prescribed to effectively treat patients, saving over 500 GP appointments for more serious cases.

The team’s success in GP CPCS consultations is similarly noteworthy, seeing them ranked number one in the East and West Midlands and top 20 in the UK. In addition, Shelley’s Pharmacy was selected for two new pilot projects that started in August which focused on CVD/stroke and digitalised CPCS referral consultations, further establishing the pharmacy as an innovative and reliable healthcare provider.

It's unsurprising, then, that Muhammad and his team have been quick off the mark with the new Pharmacy First service too.

“In December, we completed 451 GP CPCS referrals and a similar number for January”, said Muhammad, “but now that has finished and we've moved over to Pharmacy First. “We have good relationships with local GP practices and already get many referrals from them each month to see people with minor health problems, so in the run-up to Pharmacy First I created some information materials to take along to my regular meetings with the senior partnership teams that explain the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the service, as well as to address any concerns over prescribing antibiotics.”

As a result of his proactive approach to engaging local GP colleagues, his PCN and ICB leads with Pharmacy First. Muhammad says he is seeing “roughly about 40 patients for Pharmacy First a day at the moment” via GP referrals and has spent time training his team so they are confident and ready to play their part.

“We are Numark members and they provided us with some very good learning modules on Pharmacy First that the whole team has worked though, including my second pharmacist, so we can keep up with all the work that brings in”, he says.

When it comes to triaging customers through Pharmacy First and how to use the service, the team have a print-out of the conditions checklist which they go through with the patient to assess if they fit the gateway criteria. If they do, either Muhammad or his second pharmacist, who is also an independent prescriber, will see them for a consultation straight away.

The influx of customers for all these service offerings necessitated a second consultation room, which Muhammad added to the pharmacy just after Christmas. This gives him the space capacity he needs, but with such a busy pharmacy, how does he find the time to fit all these services in alongside the demanding dispensing side?

“We definitely prioritise our staffing level to make sure all of this works,” he says, “which is why I'm so lucky to have a second pharmacist and a dispenser to help us with things like the ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. In fact, because of the renovation to add the extra consultation room we’ve actually paused our Covid vaccination program for a short while, although I’m aiming to get back up and running with that again in the spring.”

Shelley’s most recent General Pharmaceutical Council inspection report noted that the pharmacy is a “a supportive environment” for team members that “considers staffing levels as part of future planning for new pharmacy services” and “makes sure it completes recruitment and training before any additional work commences.”

“I think we’d only had our previous inspection about six months before this last one,” says Muhammad, “so I was wondering why they were back so soon. The inspector told me that as we were doing so many different services they wanted to talk to my staff as well as me to find out how we do all of this, and after he had interviewed us all, he said there was so much to cover he could write 10,000 words on our pharmacy but, sadly, he was restricted to 3,000.”

With such a thriving and popular business, might Muhammad have expansion plans in his sights for the future? “To be honest, I'm quite happy having just this one branch”, he says. “I'm not worried about more and more branches to get more and more money.

“My passion is for pharmacy and for looking after my patients to the best of my ability, with my team and I don't need an empire to do that.”



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