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Pharmacists on the COVID Front Line – By Max Vara Dulwich College

During a time of immense chaos when the pandemic hit; our pharmacies were on the front line in trying to do their best for everyone; whilst also being in the dark for a lot of things themselves. I was very grateful to interview Jay Thakkar on how his pharmacy, Paxall’s in Pimlico, coped through the uncertainties of the pandemic.

Were there any changes to how you ran the pharmacy during the pandemic?

Jay: ‘‘Yes. To try and keep everyone as safe as possible we restricted the amount of people that could be in the pharmacy at once. We also had to increase our delivery services as some people were forced to isolate at home meaning we delivered their prescriptions to their door.’’

How was running a pharmacy during the lockdowns?

J: ‘’The first lockdown was really tough as nobody really knew what was happening, so there were a lot of uncertainties. There were huge increases in demand for medication which couldn’t be met because sourcing the stock was harder due to this sudden increase in demand. The pharmacy became understaffed due to the pharmacists being used in COVID vaccination centres; meaning we were working harder with less people.

Was there an influx of customers? Were people panic buying like they were in supermarkets?

J: ‘’ Yes definitely, people were panic buying hand sanitizers, paracetamol, and face masks. These three items were the highest in demand with demand being 10x higher than before the pandemic.

Was there any hostility from customers when you didn’t have something in stock? If so, how did you deal with that?

J: Luckily, we only had two or three instances where customers believed we were back stocking items and not putting them on the shelves to try and increase our profit margin. There were also a few people who believed COVID was not real, this was due to social media and the internet giving misinformation about COVID and the pandemic; so they were angry at the safety measures that were in place. We dealt with these people as best as we could and tried to act in a professional manner by listening to their point of view first, then explaining our rational after. Our main argument was: If we can make money why would we say no to you?

Is the way the pharmacy is now run back to normal? Or are some things still done differently?

J: Some protection measures are still in place; we keep hand sanitizer at the door so customers can use it on arrival. There are no social distancing rules in the pharmacy anymore however I believe people naturally stand at a distance from each other now out of instinct. It hasn’t gone back to normal and with the recent spike in the Strep A cases I believe we are looking at what is to become the new normal. An example of this would be online pharmacies, these were made during the lockdowns and I believe they will stay in place as people found it to be an easier way of getting their medicines, so why change it?

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