Team Learning & Development Award

The winner of the Pharmacy Team Learning and Development Award was Ashley Cohen, managing director of Pharm-Assist Healthcare in Leeds.

Left to right: Dr Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England, Ashley Cohen of Pharm-Assist Healthcare, and Clara Carter, sales director at sponsor Actavis


The company operates five pharmacies in Leeds and has developed expertise in the supply of medicines to care homes. Its service covers over 750 care home beds. In addition, it provides training workshops for care home staff, consultancy support for domiciliary and nursing homes and also support to intermediate care units.

When recruiting staff, the company tries to ensure that they are capable of performing more than the traditional roles in community pharmacy. The company has a staff of 70 and introduced a leadership team 18 months ago to help with training at branch level. The team is led by Mr Cohen, who, as well as being a pharmacist, has an MBA, and his wife, who has a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development qualification and looks after the human resource side of the business.

All five branch managers attend a monthly leadership team meeting along with two pharmacists who have competencies in clinical governance, audit, pharmacy IT and stock control. For each meeting, a team member is asked to make a presentation on an issue of general interest to the group.

Company champions

The company’s pharmacists are champions in specific areas, for example, travel medicine or care home issues. Champions work across the group, not just in their branches. Each year there is a day workshop for all staff, including part-timers and drivers. Before the event, staff members are asked to jot down ideas and ways they think the business can grow. These are then discussed at the workshop.

Staff can send in their ideas to a company email address. Any idea put into practice generates gift vouchers for the staff member concerned.

The company has developed a graphic display in the form of a triangle setting out its Mission, Vision and Values. It has been generated with staff input and is displayed in each branch. Key performance indicators have been developed for the group on such things as MURs, endorsing accuracy and stock control. This has led to improvements in the issues covered.

Pharm-Assist takes five pre-registration students each year and, working with local government, has trained 10 individuals with no qualifications to become dispensers. Mr Cohen says that he believes in a happy workforce to help the company “achieve the impossible”.

Clara Carter, sales director at sponsors Actavis, said that the award winner had shown numerous examples of excellent staff engagement, support and development. Mr Cohen said that he and his staff enjoyed what they were doing. He said that pharmacies could either open their doors and see who came in or they could go out and get customers. He believed in the latter approach. He paid tribute to his work colleagues saying that all he did was “drive the bus”.

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