‘Before I’m a retailer, I’m a health professional.’

Pharmacists and co-proprietors Luke McGrath (left) and John Jones (right).
Pharmacists and co-proprietors Luke McGrath (left) and John Jones (right).

These NSW community pharmacists have drawn a line in the sand when it comes to the kinds of products they sell

Pharmacists Luke McGrath and John Jones are taking a stand for the profession, refusing to sell confectionery in their pharmacy and emphasising a focus on healthcare.

As co-proprietors of My Community Pharmacy Shortland in Newcastle, NSW, Mr McGrath and Mr Jones have closely aligned goals and values that translate into how they run their business.

They chose the name of their pharmacy “with the vision of doing something bigger and better … to make pharmacy a health destination, taking it back to how pharmacy used to be – the hub of the community”.

Mr Jones, who practised as a dietician for a decade before retraining as a pharmacist, says their business decision not to sell confectionery is all about sending the right message to the community.

“You have to be genuine and consistent with what you do,” says Mr Jones, who is also a diabetes educator.

“You can’t say one thing and do something else, it confuses people. Our objective and our values are to be a healthcare destination.

“There’s no point telling someone to look after their diabetes then in the next breath say, ‘but here’s some chocolates on sale for $9.99’. I think that in order to be believable, you have to make those decisions.

“Obesity is probably the most costly burden on health at the moment. We as health professionals should draw a line in the sand and say, ‘before I’m a retailer, I’m a health professional’.”

Mr McGrath, who studied a Bachelor of Science majoring in human biology before completing his Master of Pharmacy, has also been interested in in diet and nutrition for a long time.

“You can really see the effects of what sugar has played on society at the moment,” he tells AJP.

“I one-hundred percent agree with a sugar tax, it’s been too long in the making. We’re taxing alcohol and tobacco through the roof, and sugar’s playing just as big a role in society at the moment.

“The problem with sugar is, as opposed to alcohol and tobacco … a lot of these people don’t realise they’re actually having sugary content. It’s hidden, and it’s called different things, and people don’t understand they’re actually having high levels of sugar in their diet until we actually point it out to them,” says Mr McGrath.

“As a health professional you’ve got that ability to highlight to these people that they might think they’re eating a healthy diet, but the reality is that it’s in everything that we eat.”

Luke and John enjoying a sneaky morning cuppa.
Luke and John enjoying a sneaky morning cuppa.

My Community Pharmacy Shortland is making a name for itself in the region as a specialist in diabetes services, in addition to conducting regular MedsChecks.

“We’re becoming quite well-known for that given John’s dietetic background in pharmacy and as a diabetes educator,” says Mr McGrath.

“If you can pay the same price for your medication from somebody who’s a professional in that area, or a little bit more specialised, then why wouldn’t you?”

The next step is getting the support needed from government to make intervention-focused pharmacies a financially viable service, they say.

“As an example, today I had a guy come in thirsty and had been drinking a fair bit of water,” explains Mr Jones.

“In taking a history, I was able to get some information from him and did a random blood glucose level which was through the roof. I contacted a GP so he could go in and see them straight away.

“All those things take time. We’re not adequately funded in a lot of ways for that stuff. I think it’s something that pharmacy needs to be there for, so the more support we can get for that thing the better the community.”

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