Nathan Raymond of Mendus Pharmacy, Pembroke.

Mendus Pharmacy may be shadowed by the town’s medieval castle, but its offering is ahead of its time. Boasting a close relationship with local GPs, a state-of-the-art interior revamp and an extent of healthcare services not seen elsewhere, it points the way for all pharmacies looking to build a future-proof business.

Here for our community

“There’s been a Mendus pharmacy in the community for over one hundred years,” explains owner Nathan Raymond. “So however advanced we get, it’s a neat reminder to keep fixed on the end game: everything we do is aimed at helping the people who need us.” With this in mind, Nathan embarked on an ambitious store refit three years ago. “We could see the trend in the sector, away from dispensing and towards delivering many of the health services usually provided by the GP. But we needed welcoming and spacious consultation rooms. Today we have a consultation room and a therapy room, which we rent to a podiatrist and other local healthcare professionals. Previously, they’d been seen as a ‘nice to have’, now they’re fundamental to the success of the business.”

Nathan also sought to capitalise on his buoyant retail offering. “Taking our cue from thriving retail stores, we installed slick shelving and rationalised the stock. What we have is now showcased beautifully and flies off the shelves.”

Reframing the concept of the pharmacist

While the award-winning refit is impressive, it’s in reframing the concept of the pharmacist that Nathan is seeing most reward. “We’re fortunate that the Welsh government is encouraging pharmacies to take on more of the GP offering. And we invest a lot of time in cementing our relationship with the local surgery. This has an immediate benefit to the customer – we can ring the GP directly while they’re in store, and access someone’s health records – and long term means we are building a huge amount of trust.
The more they see what we can do, and how well we do it, the more we can take on; freeing the surgery to handle more complex health issues.”

Harnessing the support of the Welsh government, Nathan and his team provide a Minor Ailment Service, including the popular Sore Throat Test and Treat. Says Nathan, “Gone are the days when you go to your doctor with a sore throat, they don’t have the means or the time to run the relevant tests to determine the cause. But we do a simple swab, test and prescribe antibiotics if needed. This is a huge weight off the shoulders of our local GPs.” Building further on this, again with local government backing, Nathan is training to be an Independent Prescriber. In this role he can diagnose and treat an even wider variety of health conditions.

Unsurprisingly, Nathan and his team were a lifeline during the pandemic, when GPs were often unavailable. “People don’t realise just how much we can do, until they need us,” says Nathan. “Once their eyes are open, they never look back.” His pharmacy consistently attracts rave reviews, with one local commenting, “They’re so efficient and helpful compared to other pharmacies in the area. No queuing or waiting for prescriptions. Fabulous!!”

‘Greater than the sum of our parts’

The pandemic was also instructive for Nathan, as he and fellow pharmacists swapped notes on how they were handling the challenges and, for the first time, experienced some peer support. “This is what I love about Alitam,” enthuses Nathan. “Working together with the incredible minds of fellow members, backed by all this collective experience and knowledge, building the future together. Each of us is so committed to the success of the movement. And yet, together we really are greater than the sum of our parts.”

Feisal Nahaboo, Alitam founder adds, “It’s ironic that I found Nathan putting into practice what we envision for the future, in one of Wales’ most historic towns. He’s inspiring other members with his future-focused practice, and with the backing of Alitam will go on to achieve absolutely remarkable things.”

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