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The pharmacy technician who supported seven Lloydspharmacy branches through COVID-19

Lilly Eggleden juggled studying to become a pharmacy technician with a gruelling workload during the COVID-19 pandemic – and won a coveted C+D Award for her efforts

“I absolutely love my job,” says Lilly.

Witnessing the 27-year-old pharmacy technician at work at Lloydspharmacy in Soham, Cambridgeshire, this is clear to see. As she sweeps authoritatively around the pharmacy to help patients find the products they need, the passion she feels for her profession is palpable.

Lilly has achieved an extraordinary amount during her 10-and-a-half years in community pharmacy. Starting out as a Saturday girl at a Lloydspharmacy branch in Ely while she studied for her A-Levels, she has gone from strength to strength, becoming a dispenser and studying for her pharmacy technician qualification, which she recently passed with an impressive double distinction.


"Everything that we ever achieve is through a team"


Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she has been a force to be reckoned with, regularly helping out at six other local Lloydspharmacy branches on top of her own workload. Although she clocked up long hours – sometimes working up to seven days a week – her positive mindset and can-do attitude acted as a lifebelt to many Lloydspharmacy teams in east Cambridgeshire, who were beleaguered by mounting workloads during the pandemic. She is currently working at Lloydspharmacy in her home town of Chatteris, although she still sometimes works across other local branches.

Lilly (pictured) started her pharmacy journey over a decade ago

But she is reticent about taking all the credit for her many accomplishments. “Everything that we ever achieve is through a team,” she says decisively. This attitude is typical of Lilly. So much so that she is loath to take all the credit for winning Pharmacy Staff Member of the Year at the C+D Awards 2021, apportioning a large chunk of that achievement to her mentor and colleague, Acacia Leong. “That award is also Acacia’s,” she asserts.

It is thanks to Acacia – a Lloydspharmacy and primary care network pharmacist who also made the C+D Awards 2021 shortlist, this time in the Manager of the Year category – pushing her to succeed that led to Lilly winning the award, she says. “I found someone who really pushed me to be what I could be,” she explains, pointing out that without the support and mentorship of her pharmacy peers, she wouldn’t have got to where she is today.

But her modesty belies a singular commitment to patient care and impressive track record in helping to turn around struggling Lloydspharmacy branches. These qualities wowed the C+D Award judges, who branded her a “rising star and an exceptional role model for the profession”.

So, just what does it take to become an award-winning pharmacy staff member?


Battling pandemic pressures


Few pharmacy teams, if any, were immune to the huge pressures presented by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Lilly’s experience is no exception.

“It was a crazy, crazy time,” she remembers. “We really struggled with staff sicknesses. We really struggled because the GPs were so overwhelmed, the hospitals as well. It put so much pressure on community pharmacies.


Lilly collecting her trophy at the C+D Awards 2021

“Until you work on the ground, dealing with it day in day out, you don't realise.”

But she was impressed with how pharmacy teams “really excelled” when dealing with the many clinical challenges thrown at them. In particular, a lot of patients in the area “really struggled” with their mental health. For Lilly, this meant personally intervening in some cases, offering advice and a supportive ear when patients presented to the pharmacy struggling to cope.


"COVID-19 was a crazy, crazy time. We really struggled with staff sickness"


Indeed, in one incident that was included in Lilly’s submission for the C+D Awards, Lilly consoled a woman who broke down in tears after a routine set of WWHAM questions. Lilly reportedly took her to the consultation room and had a long chat about how the lady was suffering from isolation, anxiety and potentially depression due to family stress and COVID-19. Lilly listened and offered a person to talk to, advised her on some self-help tips and suggested contacting some helplines as well as contacting her doctor. After assessing she was safe and not a risk to herself, the lady returned home.

During that period, a lot of elderly patients in the area also required extra support, which sometimes just involved chatting to them on the phone, but also meant that the pharmacy had to undertake extra deliveries to housebound patients. “We were being pushed to our absolute max,” Lilly tells C+D.

Understandably, there were times when Lilly felt daunted by the pressure. “It's been very hard,” she concedes. “There's been a lot of late nights, early mornings. During the COVID-19 period, there were weeks where I was working seven days a week, and I still had deadlines [to meet].”

She is grateful for the support she received at home as well as at work, which she says helped her on her way to passing her pharmacy technician qualification. And for this consummate team player, it seems fitting that it was the support from her colleagues that got her through at work.

“Everyone was doing what they were doing because we wanted to support each other. I think a lot of pharmacies got through [COVID-19] because they got through it as a team and supported each other.”


Steering the ship


Lilly’s resilience and positivity has rubbed off on countless colleagues, improving the service at several Lloydspharmacy branches in her area. Helping other Lloydspharmacy teams in the region is a point of pride for Lilly, who grew up in the area.

The pandemic had taken its toll on one 100-hour branch at a Sainsbury’s store in Ely, with “overstretched, tired” staff struggling due to staff vacancies and a new patient medication record (PMR) system. Lilly helped the team get to grips with the new technology, but also took the time to see where she could unburden some members of staff, personally taking on some of their tasks. Recognising that what the team really needed was a bit of positivity, she presented herself as a “happy spirit” who was always ready to lend her support wherever it was needed, so that overwrought team members could have a bit of downtime.


"The more skilled you are and the more different set of skills you have, the more beneficial you are to your patients"


Lilly’s approach to turning around this tired team was not dramatic – but was no less effective for that. She was quick to praise the team for their achievements, which inspired them to keep pushing forward and achieve even more. She steered clear of setting “big targets”, but noticed that staff were able to take on more and more as time went on and they could start to see the fruits of their efforts. A few “events out” also helped to boost morale, but even offering tense team members quick chats encouraged them to “get the stresses out” when needed. All of Lilly’s hard work paid off and the Sainsbury’s team is now doing “really well” within the region.

A reward for taking on so much extra responsibility during this challenging time was being shortlisted for the C+D Awards and attending the glitzy ceremony last November, which Lilly describes as an “incredible night”.


The glamorous C+D Awards 2021 ceremony (pictured above) was held in central London last November


She is adamant that more people should enter competitions like the C+D Awards – even when they believe that they are just doing their jobs. “I think that there are a lot of exceptional people in pharmacy, you do go above and beyond.

“I am living proof that you can just be normal, and you can just be working in branches and not really doing anything special. And you can get chosen to win something like this.”


Looking to the future


Now, with a C+D Award and her pharmacy technician qualification under her belt, Lilly has an accuracy checking technician qualification in her sights. Having always enjoyed the more clinical aspects of her role, she feels it is the “next step” in her pharmacy journey.

But for Lilly, whose experience in turning branches around shows a strong head for business, taking on a management position when one becomes available presents another professional goal.

While many would balk at taking on so many challenges at once, Lilly seems excited by the prospect. “I think the more skilled you are and the more different set of skills you have, the more beneficial you are to your patients,” she says.

And, inspired by the support of mentors like Acacia, Lilly is keen to share all she has learned with others, taking on a regional training role. “I do find myself, when I go to places that are struggling, talking to the staff when they're stressed in the same way that [Acacia] used to talk to me and saying: ‘There's not really a problem that we can't fix if we just sit down and talk about this.’”

This compassionate, common-sense approach to leadership is sure to stand Lilly in good stead when she moves into management positions. With a bright future at Lloydspharmacy ahead of her, the sky’s the limit for this hardworking pharmacy technician.


Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2022 awards and enter today

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