McAreavey Pharmacy – at the heart of the community
When Orfhlaith McAreavey took over Dr Terry Maguire’s pharmacy on the Falls Road during the height of the pandemic, she knew she faced some unprecedented challenges. While some challenges remain, it is not stopping Orfhlaith from progressing with her plans to grow the business.
Taking over a pharmacy from a well-known pharmacist was “extremely daunting” but for Orfhlaith McAreavey it was the fulfilment of a passion. There was the added pressure of opening in the middle of a once-in-a-generation health pandemic, but providing a service for the whole community is the driving force for the team.
“I opened in January 2021 after taking over from the previous owner, Dr Terry Maguire,” said Orfhlaith.
“We officially changed the name three months later to McAreavey Pharmacy. That was extremely daunting – everyone knows Terry, so I was really taking a chance by putting my own name up on the sign. I am so glad I did though.”
A LOCAL SERVICE FOR LOCAL PEOPLE
Having been situated in the same location on the Falls Road for over 30 years, the local community has always been serviced by a local pharmacist and Andersonstown woman, Orfhlaith prides herself on being in the position to serve the community she is from.
“We opened in the middle of covid in the dead of winter during a hard lockdown – I really don’t like to make things easy for myself!
“What we have achieved since then has been really positive – our footfall has increased dramatically, with the addition of new services and a delivery service we have hopefully added something to the local community.”
Services offered include prescription collection and delivery, minor ailments, smoking cessation programme, blood pressure monitoring, weight monitoring and online renewal passport and drivers licence photo services.
‘What we have achieved since opening has been really positive – our footfall has increased dramatically, with the addition of new services and a delivery service we have hopefully added something to the local community’
Orfhlaith and her staff at the store thrive on putting their customers and the community at the centre of everything they do and are committed to providing the highest quality pharmacy services, dispensing medicines in a safe way and offering sound lifestyle advice.
The services offered at the store are representative of how the role of the pharmacist has changed in the community and the increasingly important position they hold in terms of ensuring a rounded, holistic support service for their customers and the community as a whole.
“Pharmacy has changed considerably in the past 10 years. If I could pick one thing that has been most striking, it would be the addition of the prescribing role,” said Orfhlaith.
“This has the potential to provide even greater service for our patients and address capacity issues in the GP surgeries.
“I think that community pharmacy has always played a principal role in looking after the community and especially in the past few years we have seen several new initiatives rolled out, such as pharmacy first and the minor ailments campaign. We hope this will build in the coming years.”
Covid-19 brought unprecedented challenges and showed that community pharmacies now play a much more central role in the healthcare system. With the increase in responsibilities inevitably comes an increase in concerns, many of which retailers and businesses are facing across the board.
“Funding is the main concern, closely followed by the availability of locums,” said Orfhlaith.
“Pharmacists are readily available, you can walk into my shop and have a consultation within minutes, so that added workload can affect the daily running and sourcing medicines can take up most of my day.
“Ideally, I would be able to hire more staff to meet the increased workload, but obviously there are questions over how this should be funded.
“The cost of locums has also risen quite considerably, reflecting supply and demand, but also the reality that they can charge more outside of Northern Ireland. We need to be able to compete and offer a fair daily rate or salary, or pharmacists will be unable to take any time off.”
After living under unprecedented conditions for a prolonged period of time, Orfhlaith said that business is returning to a semblance of the familiar now.
“The vulnerable and elderly patients still want vaccinated against covid, so there is clearly still a concern out there, but the general populace just wants to return to normality. I think we are all hopeful that covid is a thing of the past and we have learned valuable lessons on how to face a similar threat in the future.
‘Pharmacy has changed considerably in the past 10 years. If I could pick one thing that has been most striking, it would be the addition of the prescribing role’
“It is mostly back to normal, or perhaps a new normal. Deliveries are more in demand than ever before, but that is possibly because people love the convenience,” said Orfhlaith.
“With Brexit and the NI Protocol, a shortage of medicines has been a real fear among patients, something which was only heightened during the pandemic. It would be difficult to imagine that voting to leave the EU would not result in some issues with medication in Northern Ireland – perhaps that is why people here voted to remain.
“We do have daily shortages and it can be quite overwhelming if multiple patients are without their meds. We do work together with our pharmacy colleagues in GP practice to get an alternative medicine prescribed quickly and the patient is normally happy.
“I feel that patients just want to be kept informed and we do our utmost to ensure they are kept in the loop throughout.”
Running a business in 2023 is being met with fiscal challenges for the retailer and consumer alike, with the cost-of-living crisis and the cost of doing business increasing. Notably the rising costs of energy bills is one that retailers and business owners are contending with.
“There are lots of costs – utilities in particular – that have been at times astronomical over the past 12 months. Costs such as these are difficult to pass onto our customers and is just a hit we have to take,” said Orfhlaith.
“We have focused on adding additional lines to the pharmacy to make up for any shortfall in our margins, but this is just something that was always in the plan for the future as we want to add to the commercial side and to give ever-increasing choice to our customers and the local area.”
Describing the last year as “amazing, hard work but very rewarding”, Orfhlaith said that she is driven towards the future and the growth and development of the pharmacy and the services it offers.
“I am hoping to add more services for my customers and keep growing the pharmacy,” said Orfhlaith, adding that while McAreavey Pharmacy has not yet begun trading online, it is “very much something we have in our plans for the future”.
“I am also doing some internal work to expand the dispensary to reflect how much growth we have had in that particular part of the business.”
TO VIEW THE FULL STORE PROFILE ON MCAREAVEY PHARMACY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD RETAILER JUNE ISSUE, CLICK HERE