Clinical Champion Lindsey Fairbrother, owner of the Goodlife Pharmacy, talks to Kathy Oxtoby about how allowing patients to walk her pet dog improved her business's footfall

The Pharmacist’s Clinical Champions scheme celebrates the extraordinary work of ordinary pharmacists.

Clinical Champion Lindsey Fairbrother’s pharmacy is well-named. ‘It’s called the Good Life Pharmacy because I want to promote good health in the community,’ Ms Fairbrother says.

Based in Hatton, South Derbyshire, Good Life Pharmacy is a village community pharmacy – that also houses a post office run by pharmacist Lindsey Fairbrother and her partner – at ‘the heart of the village’ that many patients use daily, she says.

The pharmacy opened in 2010, and then, three years ago, when the village post master wanted to retire, Ms Fairbrother and her partner took over the post office to ensure it stayed in the village.

Having a post office on site ‘brings footfall to the pharmacy and is good for business and the general atmosphere. Being in a busy place where more people are coming in and out makes work more enjoyable’, she says.

Man’s best friend

Five years ago, this partnership got a springer spaniel puppy. Rather than leaving him at home, they brought Bramble the dog into the pharmacy every day. His presence sparked an interest from people on their way to taking their children to school, and from other customers. Then customers asked if they could take him for a walk.

Ms Fairbrother recalls: ‘One woman had lost her job and had probably lost a bit of confidence. She wanted to go for a walk to get her fitness levels back up. Everyone the patient knew had a dog, but she didn’t. She didn’t feel part of “the pack”. So we let her borrow our dog every morning – then she could join in walking a dog with her friends.’

Since then, this customer has been walking Bramble and found a new job, and Ms Fairbrother believes these walks have helped her wellbeing.

Developing a service

In response to the demand from customers wanting to walk Bramble, the pharmacy now offers a dog walking service.

Despite its popularity, it remains an informal service at no cost to customers, ‘because as a village pharmacy we know our customers really well, we trust them, and want them to benefit from our dog – he’s part of our pharmacy.

'And we recognise that a lot of customers can benefit from walking a dog both physically and mentally – it’s not about commercial benefits’, Ms Fairbrother says.

Offering a dog walking service in your pharmacy could offer health benefits, such as encouraging customers to take exercise. Ms Fairbrother cites examples of customers who say they feel fitter after borrowing Bramble for an hour to go walking.

Promoting the good life

The dog walking service has been promoted by word of mouth and the local vet. Ms Fairbrother says Bramble has helped increase footfall in the pharmacy, but stresses that was not the aim of lending him for walks, and that it was about helping the community ‘and supporting each other’.

To anyone considering offering this service, Ms Fairbrother cautions that ‘you need a dog that you can trust to be good with people’. You also need to be mindful of hygiene issues. ‘All our dog walkers take out “poo bags”’ to dispose of any dog mess, she says.

While loaning a dog to your patients needs careful consideration, for Ms Fairbrother there has been no cost, and she sees this service as valuable to her community in that ‘it brings confidence and independence, can boost fitness, and brings people together’, she says.

Her advice on promoting living a good life in other pharmacies is this: ‘Yes you’re a business, but we’re a caring profession, and there are a lot of things we do in our business for free.

‘But that’s the profession we’ve gone in to. Look beyond the money, and what is better for your life than if you’re proud of what you do. Give pleasure to people, and make them feel better.’

Read about how offering a wheelchair to patients allows the Goodlife Pharmacy to improve mobility in the local community below.

Click here to find out how you and your pharmacy team can apply to become Clinical Champions.