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New superintendent for Wicker Pharmacy as Martin Bennett retires

Laura Willey has replaced the legendary Martin Bennett as the superintendent of Sheffield’s Wicker Pharmacy, it has been announced.

It was revealed on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Ms Willey had taken over as superintendent pharmacist earlier this week (December 1) following Mr Bennett's retirement.

Mr Bennett is a stalwart of the profession who served as Wicker Pharmacy’s managing director for 50 years and remains its chairperson.

Read more: Sheffield pharmacist’s ‘pioneering vision’ lands him spot on NHS awards shortlist

Ms Willey told C+D that she joined Wicker Pharmacy in mid-July from a role as regional lead pharmacist for Practice Plus Group, where she looked after 10 prisons.

“I thought I'd seen everything because I've worked in the prisons, and actually I've arrived at the Wicker and it's quite clear that that's not the case,” she said.


A meeting of minds


Like many people in community pharmacy, Ms Willey had encountered Mr Bennett on X, where they discovered a shared frustration at a shortage of pharmacists. 

But she said she had not considered the superintendent position until a doctor with whom she had been doing clinical supervision told her about the wide range of services offered by the pharmacy and suggested she apply for the role.

“I remember thinking, what is this community pharmacy? Because this does not sound like your typical community pharmacy,” she said. 

Read more: Pharmacy Wicker man awarded MBE

In the five months since she joined the team she’s found it to be “a phenomenal place” that’s a “core part” of the Sheffield community, she told C+D.

“It's more than a community pharmacy, it's a community service,” she said. 

In June, C+D reported that Mr Bennett had landed a lifetime achievement nomination for the shortlist of the NHS Parliamentary Awards for work including co-ordinating “Sheffield pharmacies to offer opiate substitution therapy for people struggling with addiction”.


Career history           


Ms Willey told C+D that she came to pharmacy “a little bit later on”, working in public health for eight years before returning to university to study pharmacy as an “older” student.

After graduating, she worked in hospital pharmacy, working in all the “odd” rotations “that a lot of people didn't really like”, including acute medicine, neonatal, septics and elderly medicine. 

Read more: We'd struggle to reach 'excellent' rating again due to cuts

She noted that this put her on a “trajectory” that suits her new role, looking after “a very big cohort of patients in loads of different situations”.

Ms Willey said that in meeting Mr Bennett, she found a pharmacist with “the very same ethos” as her – that “a patient comes first”. She said that this means they are always ”trying to do the right thing by the patients” even if business comes second.

“We will do whatever we can do to try and solve their problems,” she said.


“Phenomenal team”


Ms Willey said that although it’s a “really difficult time” for pharmacy with the pressures of drug shortages, funding, and workload, Wicker Pharmacy is “trying to change the way we do things” to free up some of the pharmacists’ time with Pharmacy First’s national roll out next year. 

Ms Willey saved special praise for the “phenomenal” team at the pharmacy, which includes a “good cohort of pharmacists”, “amazing” pharmacy technicians, trainees and dispensers, among others, many whom have been at Wicker Pharmacy for many years.

Read more: Are you ready for Pharmacy First? Deadlines for upfront cash announced

“I definitely feel like fully part of the family,” she said.

Ms Willey is an independent prescriber (IP), and said she looks forward to welcoming trainee prescribers next year.

She is optimistic about the future of the profession. She added: “Pharmacy will be the saviours of the NHS.”

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