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C+D Awards: Community pharmacist of the year

In one remarkable year, Whitworth Chemist's Jay Badenhorst secured a promotion and a C+D Awards win

When C+D asks Jay Badenhorst what his plans are for the next few years, he gives a simple answer. “World domination,” he says, cracking a smile. Perhaps it’s a little ambitious but – given his meteoric rise in the pharmacy world – it’s clear that there are great things on the horizon for the Whitworth Chemist chief.

After arriving in the UK from South Africa in 2001 and studying as a pre-registration pharmacist, he first climbed the ranks at Boots before moving on to Whitworth. He became the superintendent pharmacist of the north of England chain and nine months ago took on the role of managing director of its 35 branches. So what made him a worthy winner of the 2015 C+D Award for Community Pharmacist of the Year?

Ever the businessman 

Mr Badenhorst is a pharmacist but also a businessman, and that acumen shines through when he talks about making money by delivering services. He sees “modern pharmacy” as “a mixture of NHS and private services” to complement pharmacists’ traditional dispensing role.

“I don’t think the NHS contract is purely focused around professional services,” Mr Badenhorst explains. As long as that is the case, the pharmacy has to be able to cater for the bulk of its income streams, he says. “But you’ve also got to make the business future-proof.”

For Whitworth, future-proofing means innovation around private services. For example, Whitworth works in partnership with CityDoc, a group of private medical practices based in London. From the seed of an idea in one of Whitworth’s branches in the north east, the project blossomed and 15 of its pharmacies now act as satellite clinics for CityDoc. This involves pharmacists taking blood from patients, offering travel vaccinations and screening patients for sexual health conditions. 

“We get conclusive results for HIV within minutes, we can test for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, the full range, and for some of them we can also provide treatment,” Mr Badenhorst tells C+D.

The service is a sign of the freedom Mr Badenhorst gives his colleagues to run with their ideas: the idea for the CityDoc collaboration came from one of Whitworth’s pharmacy managers in Newcastle. 

The chain's coeliac service is another example of this approach. In Brigg, north Lincolnshire, one member of the pharmacy team is a coeliac and pushed the pharmacy to do more for others suffering from the disease. The branch now offers tests for coeliac disease, and Mr Badenhorst – ever the businessman – has also turned it into an opportunity to increase revenue. 

“[The staff member who is coeliac] was very passionate about natural and organic [products], so I sent two others from my team down to an exhibition for all of the natural and organic ranges. We are now putting those ranges in the pharmacy, with bespoke branding,” he says.

Driving change

Mr Badenhorst’s commitment to his staff is demonstrated by his investment in the business: he put more than £250,000 into developing premises last year and completely revamped the pharmacy in Murton, near Durham, from where he is speaking to C+D. He talks about the shop with real pride, keen to show us the old premises across the street – a small, cramped space – and every nook and cranny of the new modern store, with three consultation rooms and its spacious dispensary. 

Judging by his passion, this branch could easily be his pride and joy. But he seems equally enthusiastic about all 35 of the banches he manages. In a recent refit of the Scunthorpe branch, pharmacy staff helped to choose the pharmacy layout and the size of the dispensary, while patients were able to comment on concept posters displayed throughout the pharmacy, to give their thoughts on the new premises. “It gives them ownership and it makes them feel part of the process rather than the process being done to them,” he says.

Achieving that balance between overseeing the business and getting involved in each branch is key to his job. Mr Badenhorst knows all his pharmacists by first name – an impressive feat of memory – and, along with formal visits to discuss pressing issues, strives to drop into any branch he happens to be driving past on his many travels. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales

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All shook up 

But, sometimes, it’s up to Mr Badenhorst and his central office team to drive change at Whitworth. And drive it they have, transforming the company with a number of initiatives aimed at keeping staff motivated, as well as performing to high standards.

This includes an overhaul of how staff are paid. When Mr Badenhorst took over, non-pharmacist staff in the same role were paid different amounts and were doing different jobs. He set out to standardise the system: through brainstorming ideas, his team came up with the idea of creating pay structures based on KPIs – key performance indicators – that would see staff rewarded for time they spent doing their jobs. This change came with performance evaluations of all staff, helping them identify areas where they could improve, and ensuring everyone was on board with the changes. 

“They [the staff] know exactly what’s expected of them, where they might not be meeting expectations, and what they need to do to get up to that level in order to qualify for the wage increase,” Mr Badenhorst says. “It’s bespoke to every team member about their development needs and I can’t think of any negative feedback I’ve heard,” he says.

It’s just one example of the many changes Mr Badenhorst has overseen. In fact, he is planning a similar shake-up of pharmacist wages this year. He has also introduced the ‘Star Awards’ – a scheme that sees staff nominate colleagues who have gone the “extra mile” in the pharmacy, with a chanceto win £400 worth of holiday vouchers – and a revamped bonus scheme.

A remarkable journey 

It’s no accident that Whitworth has introduced so many new concepts since Mr Badenhorst's appointment. Speaking to him, it’s his creativity that stands out. He says that he is “very fortunate” to have a head office team with a mix of skills and talents, but C+D suspects he’s slightly underplaying his own role in the company’s success. Mr Badenhorst has had a remarkable journey in pharmacy, and one that will no doubt continue.

“I’ve had lots of learning experiences, and things go wrong, but it’s how you learn from that and do better next time,” he says. “And you’ve got to see the positive – the growth has been phenomenal.”

“I’ll never forget when I landed in Heathrow in 2001,” Mr Badenhorst reminisces. “There was a big billboard saying: ‘You didn’t come to London for the weather, did you?’ And I guess, no, I didn’t.”

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