From in-person appointments to dealing with drug shortages and working overtime, this pharmacy in Mitcham tells us how they continued to help patients during the pandemic.

Like many other pharmacies, Manor Chemist and Travel Clinic on Tamworth Lane, have continued to serve patients on the frontline whilst many doctors surgeries largely moved to remote appointments during Covid-19.

What separates Manor Chemist to some other pharmacies is that they’ve been able to offer an enhanced level of private appointments as their pharmacist Deven Jethwa undertook additional training to be an Independent Prescriber.

Typically only a doctor can prescribe medicines however this qualification has allowed Mr Jethwa to also do this, which became extremely useful during the pandemic.

"We didn't change the type of services we offered, it just that we got extremely busy with the existing services,” Mr Jethwa told the Wimbledon Times.

"Once patients realised we stayed open under covid and social distancing regulations we had more enquiries.

"Previously there was a general message of 'Pharmacy First' but during the pandemic patients and GP's got to understand what that actually meant.

"GP's began referring more patients directly to the pharmacy for direct advice from the pharmacist."

Wimbledon Times: Manor Chemist Manor Chemist

The pharmacy has always offered private services and specialises in Travel Health and Vaccination Services.

"During the pandemic the demand for these services declined and was replaced by the need for acute medicine - typically involving antibiotic care,” added Mr Jethwa.

“If someone attends the pharmacy with a urine infection we can offer them antibiotic treatment (pending consultation) instantly instead of having to book an appointment.

"Patients were not able to / willing to wait for an appointment from the GP's - this is not to say GP's were unwilling to see patients, it's just that their own workload increased."

The type of private services the pharmacy now offer typically range from infected sore throat, period delay, men's health, skin infections and more.

Mr Jethwa said that the demand for these services have been "varied" as not everyone can afford the cost of private treatment.

He went onto say that the pandemic has been "very challenging" for his team.

"At the beginning of the pandemic for 4 weeks we had various members of staff off due to Covid-19 illness," he said.

"This was very difficult and the workload could only be managed by calling in additional agency staff, working late and relying on mobile solutions to handle queries.

"The pharmacy has a WhatsApp line on which patients can message prescription requests and non-urgent requests for advice.

"This has been incredibly valuable in helping to reduce the volume of phone-calls we were receiving."

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He added: "During the pandemic drug shortages in general were extreme.

"Due to the combination of Brexit and delays in the transport network the pharmacy had to invest more money in increasing stockholding.

"Typically we would have one month of stock, but this had to be increased to three months holding putting financial pressure on the pharmacy."

To help patients adhere to social distancing guidance, the pharmacy introduced a range of measures including a two patients at a time policy – which saw customers wait outside until they were welcomed at the door to come in and to be served.

"Given the space we have at the pharmacy social distancing was not easy,” he said.

Speaking about the public’s response to the pharmacy's efforts, he said: "During the flu-jab season last year patients were very thankful that they could just walk-in any time without having to make an appointment to have their flu jab.

"They recognised the value of having a local community pharmacy which can offer services and advice and for which they do not have to make any type of appointment.

"The pharmacy does not typically deliver to patients, however, during the pandemic we made some deliveries to shielding / covid-infected patients.

“They were certainly grateful that we were able to delivery to them - sometimes even as late as 9pm after closing."

Mr Jethwa said that he feels “incredibly proud” of his team for continuing to provide healthcare during the coronavirus crisis and also thanked volunteers for their help. 

"Some pharmacies had to close partially due to covid related causes, however we not only stayed open beyond 7pm Monday to Friday but even opened some weekends outside our normal hours,” he said.

"It would be nice to be able to offer remote appointments and this is something we are reviewing at the pharmacy.

"However, we still believe that having a personal face-to-face interaction is more valuable than a telephone consultation in treating patients.”