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Business ambition in action

Four months on from the Planning for Growth induction day, have participants benefitted from the structured business development programme, and what, if any has been the impact on the way they are running their businesses? We catch up with two to find out.

Tajinder Singh, Totley Pharmacy

Last time we spoke to Tajinder Singh he said he was committed to overcoming the challenges faced by pharmacy contractors, but before implementing any business plans he wanted to involve his team and to empower them to own part of the plan. 

So how did that work out? “Generally speaking, we have found most of our staff have been receptive after I told them of the help and level of expertise provided through the Performing for Growth programme, and that we are fortunate to have access to this.” 

But, Tajinder has encountered some stumbling blocks. “A couple of staff have been resistant and have not pulled their weight at all. This has caused issues with other staff who have then felt frustrated,” he said. 

Tajinder contacted his mentor Mike Holden at Pharmacy Complete for some advice. “He reinforced my personal opinions about the right way to deal with this issue. Since then, things have got better although there are days when things are so pressured that I need to remind the team about targets and priorities,” he explains. However, Tajinder feels that pressurised days are becoming too common in modern pharmacy, which means that while there is a greater business imperative to set “SMARTER targets” in financially difficult times, “such plans are also more difficult to stick to due to current conditions”. This is a paradox which Tajinder is hoping to resolve. “I have spent quite a bit of time researching this sort of business planning, but being able to tap into Mike’s experience has been really valuable in fine-tuning our plan,” he says.

Priorities for Tajinder

In terms of positive steps, what are the priorities for the team at Totley Pharmacy? “We have prioritised generating extra revenues from activities other than dispensing, and adjusting stock levels in the dispensary to reduce dead stock-holding while also minimising owings. We have also achieved a 70 per cent success rate towards our target of reducing overstocked lines by 50 per cent.

“We targeted increasing NMS income. Last month, we completed 44 which was an increase of 30  per cent on what we usually achieve, so we are very happy with this.

“We also targeted increasing sales from the VMS sector. We have achieved a 20 per cent increase in this year-on-year. This was helped by expanding our range of own-brand supplements. Since introducing a larger range, we have achieved a 1,000 per cent increase in own brand supplements year-on-year.” Tajinder’s drive and his plans seem to be bearing fruit at this stage.

Lindsey Fairbrother, owner of Goodlife Pharmacy, Derbyshire had similar ambitions to Tajinder for her business – to reduce her reliance on NHS income, and again she too wanted to meet with her pharmacy team to discuss a way forward. 

Lindsey Fairbrother, Goodlife Pharmacy

One of the issues Lindsey faces isn’t a lack of ideas, it is the opposite. “As always with me, I have far too many ideas and actions to do. The hardest thing is to prioritise and also know who to ask for help and what to invest, both time and money, for return.”

Priorities for Lindsey

One of Lindsey’s priorities is to extend the reach of her current private services. She has already approached schools and businesses and while she has not had any success yet, she is optimistic, as she has more contacts to pursue. She is investigating what services she could offer, and is looking at PGDs in addition to what she can provide directly as an independent prescriber.

Lindsey is keen to explore how digital solutions might help her business – she is looking at how a digital offering might work, such as prescription ordering apps, and is thinking ahead by strategising for a future where the bulk of repeats may be dispensed off-site. 

In addition to plans to increase revenue, Lindsey is also firmly focussed on costs, so she is reviewing staff hours, which also includes reviewing skill sets – for example, she has trained all staff so they are able to undertake initial consultations for her travel clinic and weight loss services, and has also trained all regular locums to administer the flu vaccination with a view to expanding this to include travel vaccinations. 

Other priorities for Lindsey include:

  • Enhancing marketing 
  • Enhancing existing business relationships
  • Updating the appearance of the shop and consultation area 
  • Increased networking with pharmacy colleagues. 

That’s a huge amount of work, so what are the challenges? “I think the hardest thing is to try and share some of the workload with the team as it is impossible to do it all yourself, even though you are the driver for the business,” she says.

Lindsey’s mentor is Deborah Evans, so what has been the benefit of this relationship? “With Debs it is very helpful to have someone reflecting back what you are doing, asking challenging questions and helping you to prioritise as the priorities I have chosen are certainly not the complete list of all the things I want to achieve”, she explains.  

So has Deborah added value to the process? “Yes”, says Lindsey. “Just sharing ideas can help and knowing there is a catch up due makes you review where you are at before it, so things don’t stand still. It is human nature when you want to achieve something to be able to tell the other person about it.”

Totley Pharmacy

Owner: Tajinder Singh has owned the pharmacy for the last 23 years

Where: The outskirts of Sheffield in a small suburb. “It’s a lovely part of Sheffield with a great sense of community”. 

Customer mix: The majority of our patients are retired. “With the length of time I have been the pharmacist, and the sense of community locally, most of our patients are very loyal and have been patients for many years. We have families where we have cared for four generations. Many patients refer to me as a friend rather than just a pharmacist.”

Local health and social care priorities: “The local health priorities in Sheffield focus on making up for the problems left behind by the steel industry history. This means the greatest priority is to address the imbalance in health between the affluent and less affluent areas. Other priorities seem in line with national aims: childhood obesity, young people and alcohol,  and binge drinking.” 

Specific health issues:  

  • Increased dementia rates in Sheffield
  • Diabetes prevalence is lower, but more complications – heart failure, myocardial infarction, renal replacement
  • Higher under 75 cardiovascular disease prevalence.

Pharmacy Complete is a training and business consultancy run by pharmacists Deborah Evans and Mike Holden. They work with contractors, LPCs, NHS organisations, GP federations and industry, to enable high performance within engaged, effective pharmacy teams, and connect them into the healthcare system.

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