If community pharmacy held a popularity contest, it's safe to say non-pharmacist managers would not win. A recent C+D poll suggested that three quarters of C+D readers questioned their ability to manage pharmacy teams, with many citing undue pressure to meet targets as a particular problem.
But Martyn Stainton, who manages the pharmacy at Asda's branch in Byker, Newcastle, tells C+D that professionalism comes before commercial pressures at his pharmacy. Having come from a retail background, Mr Stainton started working in pharmacy three years ago and believes targets can be beneficial if you adopt the right approach.
Q Does coming from outside the sector have any benefits when managing a pharmacy team?
"Yes, because if you understand how important pharmacies are to businesses nowadays – especially to Asda – it's huge... not just as a service, but what it brings in profitability-wise. And you can learn loads from pharmacists and [other healthcare] professionals. If you can build a good relationship with your pharmacists, which I've been fortunate to do in the last two stores I've been in, that's how you can build your business – engaging your customers and your colleagues in the services your pharmacy provides."
Q Have you ever found not coming from a pharmacy background has caused any difficulties?
"No, I think I've been very fortunate. One of the pharmacists I've worked with used to be an Asda manager, and she knew about all the Asda background. My existing pharmacist is absolutely fantastic. She's a fantastic pharmacist but she's also very business-minded, and wants to actually drive and build our pharmacy business in the store and really get involved in the local community, which is what I'm really interested in."
Q How did you establish a good relationship with the pharmacy team?
"The most important thing I always recognise is that the pharmacist is a professional – they actually know the ins and outs of everything. I'll never know the stuff about pharmacy that they know, so I do really listen to their experience and make sure we're doing the right thing. I suppose I try to make sure that, as a team, we're driving the pharmacy forward together. So if we're focusing on MURs, we'll look at what we're going to do differently and draw up an action plan together."
Q Do you think pharmacists come under pressure to meet targets such as MURs in your store?
"Obviously, as a business, we have core focuses and quarterly aims. So for the last quarter we focused on MURs, which were something we really tried to push with varying degrees of results. And we've actually done really well. We're a new store and obviously it takes time to build up MURs in a new store, because you've got to get the customers in and get the repeat prescriptions on board, so it is challenging.
I think what you've got to do is set a realistic target. And it's then just about setting a clear plan, what you're going to do around driving that number. We've had something like 110 MURs in our store since April, which is quite good. So our challenge there has been to start celebrating as a team. We've got targets in all areas of retail, but I think it's how you engage your team to deliver it, and how you celebrate what the team's done."
Q Do you think there's ever a risk of a conflict between commercial pressures and patient care?
"In our pharmacy, it's about having a personal, professional experience. No matter what results you get, no matter what numbers you drive, the starting point for me is that you always drive a real, personal, professional service for your customers, and that drives your business forward. Fantastic service will grow your business. It takes between three and five years to set a pharmacy business up, so you can't be short-sighted."