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The award-winning dispenser giving haircuts to homeless women

Dispenser Kate Grant won Staff Member of the Year at the C+D Awards 2020 for her work in a women’s refuge, as well as helping the homeless and supporting patients to quit smoking

But to know what makes this Hawthorn Drive Pharmacy staff member’s story unique and award-winning, you must first know three things about Kate.

Pharmacy wasn’t her first calling. When she was younger, she studied hairdressing for two years at college, but struggled to find employment. She then saw an advert for a role in a central Ipswich independent, called Welch Chemists, and at a trial was offered the job on the spot.

Secondly, after spending some time there working with the local pharmaceutical committee – and winning an award for giving out the most Chlamydia tests in Suffolk – Kate moved to her current pharmacy, also in Ipswich, which was at the time a Lloydspharmacy, but is now owned by smaller firm David Minster.

Third, Kate was once in a violent relationship and, after she was able to leave, she spent time in a women’s refuge herself.

A combination of these three factors means that Kate is now a trained pharmacy professional with access to other health systems, able to give stylish haircuts for free, who wanted to give back to the women’s refuge that had been there for her in her hour of need.

“Going to a women's refuge […] was a massive turning point for me, in my life, and obviously, they kind of saved my life really, in a certain respect,” Kate tells C+D during a visit to the pharmacy in June this year. “I just wanted to give something back to ladies who I knew had struggled or will be struggling.”

Kate and one of her friends, who is a beautician, would go to the local women’s refuge once a fortnight and give them make-overs – “because sometimes people just need a pick-me-up”. As a dispenser, she was also able to help them access the right healthcare for any problems they may have had.

Kate believes she has helped around 40 women, but admits that she “kind of lost count”. Not only was she able to get some onto her smoking cessation programme, she also helped some of their children access OneLife Suffolk for body or anger issues.

Kate’s help also extends to her patients at the pharmacy, of whom around four or five are currently hitting the 12-week mark in their smoking cessation plan. “I’m quite happy to facilitate that with people,” she says.

Sadly, Kate’s visits to the women’s refuge had to pause in March last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic paused all non-essential contact.

“I had to stop doing it, unfortunately. But I'm hoping that once everything is settled down, I can then start again,” she says.

It would be remiss not to mention that Kate’s own life has since taken an upward turn. Not only is she an embedded member of the local community as a dispenser, she is now happily engaged to her fiancé, David.

“It's great,” says Kate. “It's how it should have been. It's how I should have been treated a long time ago. I couldn't ask for a better fiancé than the one I've got now.” Two of her four children have flown the nest, one to get married and the other to have a child of their own.

With hopes to gain a level three technician qualification and become an accuracy checking pharmacy technician, it’s clear that both in and out of the pharmacy Kate has a glittering future helping her community.

Do you think you could win a C+D Award? Get inspiration by reading about each of last year’s C+D Award winnersrunners-up and shortlisted entries, or click below to learn about this year’s categories and to enter.

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Pharmacy Dispenser/ Technician
Bethnal Green North, London
Salary: Up to £30,000

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