Alistair Houghton meets STEVE JEFFERS, chief executive of MedicX Pharmacy
PHARMACIST Steve Jeffers has found the right prescription to grow his business while improving public health.
Jeffers leads Skelmersdale-based MedicX Pharmacy, which has grown from a single pharmacy in Chorley in 2009 to a 16-store chain.
The group has developed pharmacies at health care centres across the UK, and has also won contracts to provide some healthcare services for health trusts and local authorities.
From the outset, the MedicX Pharmacy team has tried to do things differently, from avoiding the traditional white pharmacy decor to opening late to cater for working patients. It is, said Jeffers, a provider of professional services, rather than a traditional pharmacy/retailer.
Pharmacies such as his will, he believes, play a key role in ensuring patients get the best from their medication. That means not just handing it out, but also explaining to patients exactly how it should be taken.
“It’s estimated that something like 10% or 15% of all medication prescribed is not taken,” said Jeffers.
“The reason is that people take a few, they get what they perceive to be a side effect, and stop taking them.
“But they’re too embarrassed to tell the doctor they’re not taking them. And not taking them can have some quite serious consequences.
“Part of the role of a pharmacist these days is to tell a patient, for example, that if they take their medication after a meal then they won’t get that feeling of nausea. They get that because they’re taking it on an empty stomach.
“Or look at the drugs you take for high blood pressure. A lot of those drugs are diuretics – patients might need to go to the toilet more.
“That’s OK if the patient takes them when they’re supposed to take them, in the morning. But you’d be amazed at the number of patients that take them at night and then wonder why they have to get up to go to the loo.”
Jeffers said people may be reluctant to bother their busy GPs about such matters – but they should be encouraged to ask their pharmacist.
WHEN MedicX Pharmacy moved its “central team” to Skelmersdale last year, it was a homecoming of sorts for its managing director.
Liverpool-born Jeffers was part of the original migration from the city to the new town area, moving from Wavertree to Upholland in the 60s.
He studied pharmacy at Bath University and became what he smilingly calls a “proper pharmacist”, working at stores in Tuebrook, Wigan and Skelmersdale’s Concourse centre.
In the early 90s, he joined small Warrington-based group Hills Pharmacy – and stayed with the group as it grew into the Lloyds Pharmacy behemoth.
“I was climbing the greasy pole of pharmacy management,” he said. “A lot of the skills I learned there have been very useful to our growth.”
Jeffers was recruited by healthcare property developer MedicX Group in 2008 when it decided to launch its own pharmacy arm, healthcare property developer MedicX Pharmacy.
“We were all experienced in this business,” he recalled. “We were setting up something from scratch. So we could ask ourselves ‘What do we want a pharmacy to be in the future?’
“We could,” he added with a smile, “learn from all the past mistakes our ex-bosses had made, and decide how could we do it better.
“What we decided was to locate our pharmacies in health centres or hospital sites.
“That way, we’d become a provider of professional services and not a retailer. That’s a very important point for us.
“The retail element is there, but it’s probably only 2% of our turnover. The rest is from dispensing activities. But increasingly we provide professional services to patients.”
They range from smoking cessation services to providing emergency contraception and supporting patients with addictions.
The group has several contracts with health bodies to provide such services. In Blackpool, for example, MedicX Pharmacy has a contract to supply medicines and offer medication compliance clinics to HIV+ patients.
At its branches in Chorley and Lytham, the company also supplies “aids for independent living” on behalf of Lancashire County Council.
Instead of having to go to a council depot to collect items such as commodes, people can instead request them from MedicX pharmacies.