Why we gave two of our pharmacies a 'facelift'
Avicenna's ambitious redesign of two of its pharmacies boosted team morale and delighted patients, scoring a C+D Award in the process
People. Patients. Planet. That is how Alex Phelps, portfolio development manager at Avicenna, describes the company’s values when she speaks to C+D about the company’s success in scooping the top prize in the Pharmacy Design of the Year category at the C+D Awards 2022.
For the 139-strong community pharmacy group, “it's all about sustainability [and] making pharmacy better for our patients”, she says. So when Avicenna gave two of its pharmacies a “facelift” in 2022, the team jumped at the opportunity to trial new concept stores that gave more prominence to the consultation room and clinical services.
Mellors Pharmacy relocated into a vacant healthcare centre on the outskirts of Warwick, while Tyne and Wear's Wallsend Pharmacy was in need of an upgrade. Work was completed in May 2022 and the new Mellors Pharmacy opened in June, followed by the Wallsend branch in August.
Having learned a lot over the process, Alex reveals what it takes to create an award-winning pharmacy design.
Before the redesign project kicked off in January 2022, staff at the Wallsend branch had to contend with cramped conditions as they toiled away in the “shoe box” of a pharmacy, Alex recalls. Working in such close quarters left the team with a workflow that was “all over the shop”, hampering efficiency and impacting on morale, she adds.
Although the project was lead by Avicenna's head office, the company wanted the experience to be a collaboration with the pharmacy teams on the ground, as well as patients. It was also important to take into account the needs of patients in the different locations.
Thoughts about sustainability, efficiency and accessibility were front and centre in considerations about the refit. The team was keen to “understand what was important” to patients and staff, with future-proofing the pharmacies another key consideration.
With all of these considerations to factor in, every detail was carefully deliberated over, Alex adds. From the eco-flooring that was laid throughout the pharmacies through to the LED lighting and switchable glass in the consultation room windows, careful thought has gone in to each and every detail.
But the project was not without its challenges. Patients were “quite cautious” about the “really, really busy” Mellors Pharmacy moving location from its long-standing spot on Warwick's high street, where it had stood proudly for “something like 100 years”, Alex explains. Careful thought also had to be given to historical conservation when it came to the external appearance of the pharmacy, with special attention given to lighting and the external signage.
COVID-19 also threw a spanner in the works in terms of getting hold of certain materials, which made “pulling everything together in such a short time span” even more tricky, Alex recalls.
There was a lot of surprise that the refits were completed in a fraction of the usual “18 months” a similar project might take, Alex says. But because the lease had already been signed for the Mellors site, the team was forced to push ahead.
Both the staff and patients in the two pharmacies are happy with the end result – so much so that prescription volumes have increased by 11% and the demand for services has increased three-fold across both locations. One patient has commented that their local pharmacy feels “lighter and more spaced out" following its refit, while another has remarked to staff that they are “lucky to have such a lovely pharmacy”.
Meanwhile, the pharmacy manager at Mellors Pharmacy says “the design of the pharmacy has changed the way that I interact with customers”.
"I am no longer hidden away in a dusty dark corner of the dispensary. Instead, the design has enabled me to become more visible and interact with patients on a completely different level," he continues. "I have full vision of the whole space and patients know I am there to help them."
And another member of staff can’t believe how lucky they are to “have such a modern, professional pharmacy to work in”. Another says it has made them feel “more professional” as they have “a well-equipped consultation room”, motivating them to “do more services”.
What’s next for the teams?
With the revamped premises, the Mellors and Wallsend Pharmacy teams can now deliver clinical services for their patients they have not been able to offer previously, allowing them to be the “trusted healthcare professionals” they can be, Alex says.
With the Mellors and Wallsend refits a resounding success, Avicenna has further plans to roll out more concept stores. About “five or six” have already opened, and there are plans for every branch to get the same treatment, Alex says. While the main elements of the design and principle will remain the same, there will be slight differences to take into account the needs of practicalities of individual branches.
The next Avicenna Pharmacy refit will benefit a community pharmacy in “a tiny little village somewhere”, she adds. That is hopefully going ahead this year so it’s “It's going to be exciting," Alex enthuses. "Really exciting times.”
The C+D Awards 2023 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 6. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2023 awards and enter today.