Bannside Pharmacy – The beating heart of the local community
Bringing health and wellbeing to the fore
In November 2019 Bannside Pharmacy in Portglenone won the Neighbourhood Retailer Community Pharmacy of the Year Award. In a hotly contested category, owner and pharmacist Eoghan O’Brien was delighted with the recognition.
“It’s always a boost to win an award – but as this award is based on the findings of a mystery shopper – an independent person from an experienced and reputable company – we were so pleased. It was great to get the feedback whether you win or not – and if the team know a mystery shopper may come in, it helps us to up our game a bit. It’s certainly a good process.
“We concentrate on giving the best possible service to all our customers. I would say we know over 80% of them by first name. We focus on giving them the best guidance we can – I prefer the word guidance to advice – as we like to help them find their way. This usually gives better outcomes.
“We have an important role to play in health promotion and prevention – so it’s a dialogue with the customer, not just a monologue. We can encourage people to look after their own health – by taking time to look at their lifestyle – the importance of physical activity and diet. Stress is another big factor in health and well being, and I think we’ve been seeing a lot more stress related illness – and Covid has really brought that to the fore.”
A lot has happened in the two years since November 2019 – Covid being the most disruptive, but it was a chance for community pharmacy across Northern Ireland to step up to the mark and demonstrate its worth as a community based health resource. Although Bannside Pharmacy isn’t yet providing the vaccine (it does provide the flu vaccine), it has helped customers think about how to support their immune system. And Bannside Pharmacy was pleased to have a visit from the Health Minister Robin Swann in May, who came to say a simple ‘thank you’. That meant a lot to Eoghan and his team.
“Covid was a really challenging time – but I think community pharmacy stood up really well to it. We showed what we’re capable of doing, and took some of the pressure off GPs” said Eoghan.
“Portglenone is a small rural town with a population of a few thousand – community pharmacy has a role in helping people connect. We have a treatment room in the pharmacy which provides a range of complementary therapies – which can be the first step in helping people cope with stress.”
Customers can access the treatment room for reflexology, kinesiology, acupuncture and other therapies proven to help combat the physical and mental impact of stress.
Eoghan also takes a healthy interest in new developments – and keeps up to date with what’s happening in the health and wellbeing market
Earlier this year Bannside Pharmacy introduced a new Microsuction Ear Wax Removal service – which has been highly successful, and also taking that pressure off GPs.
Last year saw the sixtieth anniversary for Bannside Pharmacy – established in 1960 by Eoghan’s late father Colm.
“He started the business in 1960 – and we moved in upstairs. We were literally brought up above the shop.”
Eoghan qualified as a pharmacist in 1989 and took over the business in 1993 – he still finds it hard to believe that’s almost thirty years ago! He’s seen some changes since then.
“In 1998 we doubled the size of the shop when we took over the premises next door. That allowed us to create the treatment room” said Eoghan.
“There’s also been huge steps forward with technology. We recently installed new tills which will allow us to take the next steps into e-commerce.
“We also now have the 24-hour Pick-Up Point for prescriptions. It’s a type of robot in the front window – a bit like an ATM for prescriptions – which means we can scan the prescription and send the person a six-digit pin number. It gives customers a lot more flexibility – they can literally collect their prescription at six in the morning, or eight in the evening or even 2am if needs be. It’s been very popular – especially for people who needed to socially distance, and parking can be difficult outside during the day.
Rapidly changing environment
“Community pharmacy is a rapidly changing environment – but our core ethos of serving the local community is still the same. We’ve had staff here for forty years (Bernie has been here over forty years) and we’re very fortunate to have great team.
“Portglenone is a small but vibrant community – we don’t have any of the supermarket multiples – the nearest would be in Ballymena or Magherafelt, but we have a great EUROSPAR, Nisa Extra and lots of small independents that are also at the heart of the community.”