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The family-run pharmacy that’s been dispensing wisdom for over 40 years

Fresh from winning their third C+D Award, the team at Landy’s Chemist explain the power of a personal touch and why taking an inclusive approach to healthcare can yield the best results

It’s a dismal Tuesday afternoon in the genteel north London suburb of Finchley, but the atmosphere in Landy’s Chemist is buzzing when C+D comes to pay a visit. “Get away from there!” a patient gently scolds her two pet dogs as she stops them from sneaking into the dispensary. “That’s not where you work.” The team making up prescriptions stifle giggles as the would-be intruders snuffle around in front of the counter. Meanwhile, customers on the shopfloor browse the shelves chock full of modish skincare products, luxury perfumes and a litany of food supplements.

Three C+D Award trophies – one picked up at each annual prizegiving ceremony since 2020 – sit pride of place behind the till. The most recent was presented to the team at a glamorous ceremony in central London last September, when the business won the coveted title of Independent Pharmacy of the Year. And looking around this bustling, welcoming community pharmacy, it’s easy to see why Landy’s Chemist triumphed over stiff competition in this category at the C+D Awards 2023.

Read more: The ‘truly inspirational’ pharmacist who always puts the community first

The judges were impressed by the team’s commitment to helping those in need and for their holistic attitude to healthcare – something that’s endorsed by the whole family. “We’re all very strongly of the view that wellness comes in so many forms,” explains Mitesh Desai, who works with his father and two sisters – all of whom are qualified pharmacists – in running the pharmacy. Mitesh, who himself has a background in finance, focuses largely on the e-commerce side of the business, which runs a roaring trade in skincare and the wide range of vitamins and health supplements for which the pharmacy has become known.

There’s a sense of camaraderie within the team. This is unsurprising given it’s been run by the Desai family family for over forty years. Mitesh’s father and Landy’s managing director Girish, who was crowned Community Pharmacist of the Year in at the C+D Awards 2022, bought the pharmacy from its founder Tony Landy in the eighties. He decided to keep the original name because of its stellar reputation within the community and because it had become well-known by local residents since it was established in the late 1940s.

The Desai name might not be on the signage above the pharmacy’s door, but in many ways, it’s become another member of the family. “It means something to all of us,” Mitesh tells C+D. “I’ve got a two-and-a-half-year-old son [Sami] and if we drive by, he points and he’s like: ‘Landy’s!’ It’s really cute.”

 

A holistic approach

 

Girish and his two pharmacist daughters Panasha and Neesha are well-versed in advising patients on different approaches to treating common ailments, from traditional medicines through to diet or homeopathic and naturopathic remedies. Mitesh says: “The result of that is someone can walk into our pharmacy and say, ‘I’ve been taking this medicine, it doesn’t work for me, it makes me feel sick.’ And we can say, ‘Oh, do you want to try something else? Do you want to go down the homeopathic route, do you want to go down the naturopathic route?’ I think that’s really impactful.”

An important part of patient care at Landy’s is taking the time to talk through patient’s conditions with them in detail – which sometimes results in unconventional cures. Mitesh shares one example about a patient who was suffering from “like, a million issues” who came into the pharmacy to speak to his father. After about 15 minutes of carefully quizzing the patient on his symptoms, Girish deduced that the culprit causing them was a new washing up liquid. Soon after the patient stopped using it, their symptoms cleared up.

“It was such a simple solution in so many ways but you might not really clock it without having someone who cares and takes you through it and makes you realise that X is connected to Y,” says Mitesh. This painstaking attention to detail only adds to the sense of trust that patients put in the team at Landy’s. As Mitesh puts it: “We still talk to these people. We might help them once, but they come forever and always trust us.”

Read more: Attention UK Pharmacy! Reward yourself at the C+D Awards. You deserve it

Patients seem unsurprised to learn that this hard-working team has seen so much success. “Oh, they’re fabulous here,” one tells C+D. A key draw seems to be Girish, who has worked in community pharmacy for over 50 years. Sharply dressed, he still cuts a dapper figure and is always ready with a warm smile from behind the counter.

Mitesh is full of praise for his father. “He’s an actual gentleman and that’s why so many of our customers come to see us, because of him. He’s got a wonderful reputation and great links with doctors in the area,” he says. “We all get along and there’s better quality patient care because of that.”

 

Giving back

 

Girish has also instilled in his team the importance of giving back. “My dad is a really quietly generous person. He helps loads of causes and he’s really wonderful,” says Mitesh. The team has become well-known in the local area for their charitable outlook. Landy’s Chemist is located in an affluent area of London, but – noticing how hard to cost-of-living crisis was hitting many families in the UK – the team decided to partner with a local food bank.

Since October 2022, Landy’s has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of supplements, vitamins and medicines to a food bank in nearby Boreham Wood. Mitesh notes that the pharmacy must have donated somewhere between £100,000 and £200,000 worth of products in the first year of the partnership. “We’re not doing this for any financial benefit,” he says. “We’re just doing it because it makes sense and it’s so beneficial for foodbank users.”

Read more: C+D Awards 2024 are now open for entries - with a heroic new category

At a time when community pharmacies up and down the country are feeling the pinch, these acts of generosity seem even more extraordinary. “Funding is not ideal,” Mitesh concedes. “And it’s probably going to get worse because it seems like, unfortunately, the country’s a little bit broke but also the funding requirements for the NHS have gone a little bit bananas.”

But he seems confident that Landy’s will weather the storm. Much of this comes down to the solid business acumen picked up by his father over his many decades in community pharmacy, and he continues to dispense wisdom to the rest of his team. “It’s like having two businesses in one. If the pharmacy is quiet, maybe you’ll sell a skin cream,” Mitesh says of his father’s approach to business. “That’s always been his mind set – why would you ignore the space in front of the dispensary?”

 

Keeping it in the family

 

Mitesh recommends paying close attention to skincare and health trends and making sure the pharmacy keeps these items in stock. “It sounds so basic but it’s easy to see what’s exciting and trending and what people care about and we try to keep those things. For example, there was a big trend for rosemary oil, so of course we stock rosemary oil – why wouldn’t you?” he says.

It’s things like this that keep patients coming back to this friendly community pharmacy – no mean feat given the Boots branch located just a few doors down. As Mitesh points out, most prescriptions are dispensed for free, and the Boots pharmacy is nearer to most of the GP surgeries in the area.

 

So, what makes people walk the extra 150 yards to Landy’s? The team always make the extra effort to learn patients’ names and remember other details about them, which Mitesh says makes all the difference. “Essentially, we’re just trying to be personal,” he says. “I think it comes down to the way we treat people and the way we work.”

And it seems this convivial attitude is present in the workplace, too. The team share jokes with one another and jostle into position as they troop into the dispensary for a photo before C+D leaves, leaving the distinct impression of a picture snapped at a gathering of relatives.

While many businesses disingenuously refer to their staff as part of their family, it’s clear to see that the Desais really do see their colleagues as such. Could there be room for a fourth C+D Award behind the till at Landy’s Chemist?  

 

The C+D Awards 2024 will take place at The Brewery in London on September 19. Could you or one of your colleagues be crowned as a C+D Award winner? Check out all the categories for the 2024 awards and enter today.

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