How Hughes Pharmacy became the community frontline during Covid-19
It started off as a sweetshop, was transformed into a traditional pharmacy 65 years ago and now delivers everything from footcare to ostomy appliances. We find out how Hughes Pharmacy became a mainstay of the Enniskillen streetscape.
Paul Hughes says one of his earliest memories was running in and out of the pharmacy founded by his mother next door to the family home on Enniskillen’s Belmore Street.
“My mother, Laura Joan Hughes, started this pharmacy in 1955 and she worked in it until she was 80 years of age,” he says.
“My earliest memory was that even as a child I was in and out all the time. I was brought up in a pharmacy background and that’s where I developed an interest in it.”
Over the years, Paul became involved in the family business and began working alongside his mother in both the Enniskillen pharmacy and another in Newtownbutler.
Hughes Pharmacy is now a fully rounded healthcare provider, delivering a host of services to the community, and has even won NI Pharmacy of the Year at the Pharmacy in Focus awards in 2017 for its outstanding service to the community, as well as being nominated for three more awards.
“We went from being what you would call a typical pharmacy where you dispense prescriptions and we’re now doing vaccinations, repeat prescriptions, prescription collection and delivery, minor ailments service, blood pressure and blood sugar testing, healthy living advice, oxygen delivery service and smoking cessation service,” Paul says.
Many of these services were originally handled by community doctors and nurses but are now migrating to the community pharmacy.
“Fifty years ago we would have been doing prescriptions and cough medicines, now the range of extent of the pharmacy services have vastly increased over the years,” he says.
The recent upheaval of the pandemic brought its own challenges and Paul says the outbreak really pushed pharmacies to the fore.
“All of a sudden we got this situation where people didn’t want to come out of their houses unnecessarily and it became hard to access GP services,” he says.
“Pharmacies generally rose to the challenge and became the first line of healthcare – it was an open door and you didn’t need an appointment and could access services quite easily.”
His own staff worked extra hours and hugely ramped up the delivery service.
“They didn’t take holidays or time off because of the demand and I think they deserve to be recognised,” Paul says.
“We were often working to 10 o’clock at night delivering medication – during the pandemic the delivery service became a very big service.
“ We could have been doing 40 or 50 deliveries a day and the vaccination service followed on from that. We’ve done hundreds of Covid vaccinations and now we’re doing flu vaccines.”
Paul says ideally community pharmacies are well placed to deliver further minor ailments services that are currently delivered by GP surgeries.
“People can now come to the pharmacy for minor ailments such as diarrhoea, athlete’s foot, head lice – we can write prescriptions for those,” he says.
“But I do think the minor ailments formula should be increased – we’re now looking at increasing it and maybe bringing in things like UTIs.”
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