The tranquil interior of Pharmacare Pharmacy is a cool respite from the hot afternoon sun when C+D visits the pharmacy in July.
The ever-vigilant manager Sukhy Somal shows up behind the counter at the sound of the door and assists a customer requesting a first aid kit.
On a shelf behind her are two C+D awards: one for Manager of the Year, which she won in 2020, the other as part of a team effort in 2021 for the Pharmacy Team of the Year category.
Sukhy’s pride in these awards is immediately apparent. And she’s not shy about admitting that she wants to brag a third.
“There’s just a nice little space in there for another one,” she says, patting the shelf.
Team an “extension of family”
It’s easy to see just how busy this popular pharmacy is as soon as you slip past the awards shelf. Beyond that is the pharmacy, a buzz of activity: telephones ring and the dozens of team members on display seem determined to carry out their duties.
Sukhy points to some of her colleagues and introduces them gently, so as not to disturb them.
Pharmacare Solutions brought in a few new recruits this year, increasing their workforce to 35 very healthy employees ranging in age from teens to septuagenarians. Sukhy considers each of them “an extension of the family” and jokes that she spends more time with her co-workers than with her husband.
Sure enough, the team plans to meet for a meal that evening, before indulging in some karaoke. What is Sukhy’s favorite karaoke song, you may ask? “Everything from Michael Jackson, because then you can just scream it,” she laughs.
In their application for the 2021 C+D awards, the Pharmacare team detailed how they came up with a service plan to support patients and each other at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They delivered food to community members who were in self-isolation, delivered homebound patients their medication for free, and called clients and care homes to personally check in with them.
While the team has stopped offering some of these add-ons in recent months, as the effects of the pandemic wane and vulnerable patients feel safe to walk back into their local pharmacy, the Pharmacare team is up every morning at 10am gathered for daily “huddles” to go over the plan for the day.
“When you have a team of our size, you only want to say things once and everyone knows what everyone is doing,” explains Sukhy.
Pharmacist trainee Pardeep Singh, who spent three years at Pharmacare, says this element of teamwork and constant communication is key to the pharmacy’s success.
“That’s how you’re going to win these things,” he says, referring to the C+D awards.
For Technician Adam Hayes’s accuracy check, the daily conversations – through which staff raise any concerns – leave the team “feeling like [they are] involved in everything” and set Pharmacare Solutions apart from its previous workplaces.
“Everyone knows what they’re doing from the start of the day and you feel more motivated to get those chores done,” he explains.
A forgotten workforce
While the Pharmacare team clearly already love what they do, Sukhy is quick to point out the importance of recognition.
Her colleagues are “getting a little sick of my nagging about” all the accolades the pharmacy has won, laughs Sukhy. But she thinks the recognition she gets from events like the C+D Awards is “good for pharmacy in general”. Despite the industry’s brave efforts during the pandemic, the role of community pharmacy is often “forgotten”, she stresses.
“I think it’s good that we shout how great you all are,” she tells her team.
“I always say to the team: we’ve been awarded, what would an award-winning pharmacy do? To what standard would we work?”
Jokes aside, Sukhy notes that winning C+D Awards two years in a row has “clearly boosted team morale”.
“But it also helped me recruit a higher caliber of people,” she notes. Applicants often decided to apply for a position at Pharmacare Solutions after reading about the awards on the pharmacy’s website, she says.
Pharmacare has also enjoyed commercial success – with steady growth in the number of items it dispenses, as well as the contracts it has landed.
“We have a lot of major contracts coming in,” says Sukhy, including several Boots previously had for medication delivery in 12 care homes.
“The company has […] has grown at rates of 15-20%, which is unknown in the pharmaceutical world,” she says, “especially with COVID-19.”
Sukhy recalls that she and her husband Ranj “put every penny into setting up” Pharmacare in 2014.
“We were just the two of us at first, just sitting there looking at each other and saying, ‘The phone might ring,'” she recalls. “Now the phone won’t stop ringing.”
Third time is a charm
When it comes to entering the C+D awards, Sukhy recommends that those hoping to win their own trophy “apply for one category at a time and really go for it”.
This year she will nominate Pharmacare Solutions in the Independent Pharmacy of the Year category, hoping to give the pharmacy its third C+D Award in a row.
From what she’s seen over a 22-year career in pharmacy, “the self-employed often have a very hard time” and are sometimes seen as “little below par compared to the companies and the big giants, Lloydspharmacy and Boots”.
But Sukhy has worked for multiples in area manager roles, she emphasizes. “And I know our standards are perfect, even equal, if not above what they do.”
By entering this year’s awards, she aims to “bring back a little pride to the independent pharmacy.”
Sukhy thinks independent pharmacies like Pharmacare are “doing a great job”.
“Watch us,” she warns. “Because we are as good as, if not better, than the multiples.”
Can you or one of your colleagues be crowned a C+D Award winner? View all categories for the 2022 awards and enter today.