This year's Independent Pharmacy Awards have highlighted just how important independent pharmacies are to an NHS battling to stave off Covid-19, writes ICP editor Neil Trainis...
The Independent Pharmacy Awards went virtual this year to recognise the way in which independent pharmacies have dealt with an all too real health crisis.
Covid-19 has left a trail of misery in its wake but community pharmacy teams across the UK have put their lives on the line and continue to do so as the country embarks on a nationwide vaccination programme.
There were some inspiring entries for this year's event and separating them was an unenviable task for the Awards judges. Take Best Supporting LPC (or equivalent body), a new category for the Awards this year, where three excellent LPCs - Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire, Avon LPC and Suffolk LPC - made the final shortlist. All have provided great support to their contractors during the pandemic and it was almost impossible to choose between them.
Avon LPC, led by chief officer Richard Brown, was given the nod. It is a forward-thinking LPC that has been ahead of the curve, particularly in the last 12-18 months. It has run successful pilots of a number of national and local services and, before the pandemic struck, it had been making tremendous progress encouraging contractor engagement with primary care networks.
Lindsey Fairbrother, who runs Goodlife Pharmacy in Derbyshire, was crowned Independent Pharmacist of the Year. She qualified as an independent prescriber, allowing her to provide her patients with some important services, and is pressing ahead with the roll-out of Covid vaccines. It is a “24/7” operation and “the hardest thing I've ever done in my life,” she says pragmatically, “but it's got to be done.”
She is no glory-seeker, either. “Most pharmacists up and down the land are working as hard as I am, so (the award) is recognition for everybody,” she said.
Shasha Eva Peng, a trainee pharmacy technician at Kellaway Pharmacy in Bristol, was named Key Staff Member for her dedication to her patients and determination to improve herself. She only came to the UK from China five years ago but has become an integral part of her team.
The Innovation Award went to Jackie Lewis at Lewis Pharmacy in Exmouth. The pandemic has had a terrible impact on cancer care, with operations halted because beds have been taken by Covid patients and people with cancer symptoms opting not to seek help in case they contract the virus.
Jackie designed a service for pharmacy staff to encourage referrals of patients with red flag cancer symptoms known as ‘Not Normal for You?’ and that was delivered in 10 pharmacies in East Devon. She also developed a series of e-learning modules for pharmacy teams which have been published on the British Oncology Pharmacy Association website.
Her work has been priceless given the effect of the pandemic on cancer. She has taken an altruistic approach to it too, insisting she is happy for someone else “to take this project and run with it” and keeping it off-patent to allow that to happen.
Sabina Yasmin and her colleagues at Harlow Pharmacy were named Pharmacy Team of the Year. They have always been there for their patients but the pandemic has brought the best out in them as they continue to support vulnerable people in their community.
Delivering Covid vaccines will be a challenge but it is not one Sabina is prepared to shirk from. Quite the opposite. “We're trying to do 3,500 vaccines a week,” she said enthusiastically. She has forged strong relationships within the community and not just with GP surgeries and patients. The hairdressers next door and a local sweet shop are helping her deliver vaccines.
This year's winners received a gift voucher and a trophy. The Awards also heard from Bruce Warner, the deputy chief pharmaceutical officer for England, on community pharmacy's response to the crisis.
What is clear is that even in extreme adversity, independents have been there for their patients.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Independent Pharmacy Awards. Click on their names to read more...