SECTOR FOCUS: Knowsley’s ‘phenomenal’ response to COVID-19 pandemic

Since COVID-19 first arrived in the UK early in 2020 there is barely a single aspect of our personal or professional lives that has not been impacted by the pandemic.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the past 12 months or so has been our resilience and our capacity to face and adapt to what was a completely new challenge. And the development and roll-out of the vaccine has been astonishing.

Both our public and private sectors have pulled together in an extraordinary effort to deal with the impact of the pandemic. Below are just three examples from here in Knowsley:

Davey’s Chemist

John Davey has invested around £100,000 to transform two of his six high street pharmacies in Liverpool city region into COVID vaccination hubs. But the investment of John and his team into their work goes far beyond anything that can be measured in monetary value.

The son of Irish immigrants who came to England in the 1950s, John grew up in Manchester but ended up falling in love with Merseyside after coming to study at Liverpool Polytechnic in 1981.

After graduating from the poly, he trained at Boots for a year before cutting his teeth at several community pharmacies around Liverpool. It was during these early years, John made a decision to start a new life in Ireland. But the pull of Liverpool proved too strong.

He said: “I had a choice to leave and start anew elsewhere. I was on the ferry to Ireland and when I realised what I was leaving behind, I began to choke up. I knew then that I had to come back.”

In 1986, John took over an existing pharmacy in Huyton in Knowsley. Today, there are six Davey’s Chemists across Liverpool city region, employing more than 50 people. He has encouraged a strong ethos of support for the local communities his outlets serve, a philosophy that has come into its own over the past 12 months.

“We are an intrinsic part of our communities and the service we provide goes beyond just dispensing medicines,” explained John. “All our staff wear badges asking ‘How can we help?’. And what we get through the door every day is a snapshot of people’s lives.

“They not only talk to us about their health, they tell us about everything else, too. They talk about how they are feeling, about their day to day challenges, the details of their lives. And we do whatever we can to help.

“We have great relationships with local councillors, with MPs with a whole range of other professionals and support services and we can refer people to get the help and advice they need. That is what being a community pharmacy is all about. We are often the first port of call for people. You can walk down the street and know we are here to help.”

When COVID-19 cases began to rise rapidly in early spring 2020, John realised this was going to be something very different. He added: “People were scared. They didn’t know what was happening.”

At that point, all the normal support mechanisms in the NHS were struggling to adapt to what was happening and John and his team found themselves at the beginning of what would prove to be a massive learning curve.

“What we have seen since is a fantastic effort and a multi-disciplinary approach from public health services across Merseyside,” said John. “They were very much behind the curve and now, by all working together, we have got ourselves ahead of it and that has been a remarkable effort.