Daily Mail

Life-saver who worries how long she can carry on


TO ALPA GHELANI, a 46-year-old pharmacist in Stretford, Greater Manchester, her work isn’t simply a job, ‘it’s a vocation’.

Alpa recalls her graduation day in July 1998 as being ‘one of the proudest days of [her] life’, but says that at least 11 of her 100 fellow graduates have left for more financiall­y rewarding careers in finance and business.

‘I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg,’ she says. ‘I’m struggling to survive running an independen­t pharmacy with rising case loads and the spiralling costs of drugs.’

Alpa opened Alphabet Pharmacy in 2016. ‘Covid changed the role of pharmacist­s — we saw an increase in patients contacting us because they couldn’t see their GPs, and I receive 30 more phone calls a day,’ she says.

‘I start work at 8.30am and I’m in my pharmacy until 5pm. Then I deliver prescripti­ons until 8.30pm, so I can meet my customers and assess how they are.’ This can be life-saving.

‘Recently the wife of one patient told me she was breathless, with swollen ankles. I recognised the symptoms of heart disease and told her to see a GP. She was referred to a cardiac unit with heart failure the next day.’

Just last month, Alpa was delivering painkiller­s to a patient in her 80s. ‘She’d been prescribed tramadol [an opioid], which concerned me, and when we chatted she said she’d asked for Panadol for mild pain — the GP had misheard her over the phone.

‘For this elderly lady the side-effects of tramadol — drowsiness and hallucinat­ions — could have had serious consequenc­es.’

Customer Suzanne Wood, 46, says Alpa has been her lifeline. The mother of three has type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholestero­l, fibromyalg­ia and arthritis in her hips.

She says: ‘As my husband works shifts, I get lonely. Sometimes Alpa is the only other adult I speak to for two days. For the sake of my mental health, having a friendly chat makes a difference. There’s no way I’d get this from a large High Street chain.

‘Alpa gave me her mobile number and said I can text at any time, day or night. She’s helped me avoid having to go to the GP or even A&E, which also eases the pressure on the NHS.

‘It makes the lack of funding for small independen­t pharmacist­s seem even more ridiculous. They save the NHS so much money.’

Alpa says there’s never been a greater need for community pharmacist­s, yet most are ‘buckling under the strain’. ‘On my Facebook group for local pharmacist­s, someone asked “Why are we still in this job?” I fear I will start asking myself this.’

 ?? ?? Under pressure: Alpa Ghelani
Under pressure: Alpa Ghelani

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