An insight into the work of Hardial Singh Uppal.
Widely trusted and respected by the diverse community of Handsworth, Hardial delivers a pioneering range of services through his Soho Pharmacy. Established in 1992, the pharmacy has achieved a number of ‘firsts’ in the world of pharmacy and healthcare. He’s flanked by a loyal team of staff, unchanged for 25 years, and steered by his wife Samantha – herself a visionary in the realm of preventative healthcare and wellbeing.
Having worked hard to connect with his local community (and relocating to adjoin one of the biggest health centres in Birmingham) Hardial’s thoughts turned to innovation. Galvanised by the liberating vision of Birmingham City Council, and the Primary Care Trust at the time, his was one of the first pharmacies to attain the status of ‘Healthy Living Pharmacy’ in 2011. “This was a brand new concept back then,” explains Hardial. “We were the very first, and now of course it’s the norm. It’s a testament to the forward-thinking nature of our local council and CCG, who for some time have seen the great potential in the role of a community pharmacy.”
Then came another first, with Hardial’s pharmacy pioneering the comprehensive sexual health clinic ‘Umbrella’. “It heralded a minor revolution in sexual healthcare,” says Hardial. “Now customers can access all sexual health services under one roof – everything from chlamydia treatment, the Hepatitis B vaccination and contraception counselling down to emergency contraception. We have the trusted position; we have the expertise – it was a natural fit. And it takes a lot of pressure off busy GPs. Still today, very few pharmacies offer this full range of support.”
Hardial provides even more clinical care through the Minor Ailments scheme, where his team can efficiently treat customers with UTIs and conjunctivitis, for example. He runs a busy smoking cessation clinic, a hugely popular vaccination service for those making the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, and even supports customers with male pattern baldness. “People come from a long distance as we offer so much. In fact it’s quite normal for customers who’ve moved away to keep using us,” smiles Hardial.
The power of prevention
Not content to rest on their laurels, Hardial and Samantha are blazing a trail into exciting new territory. Samantha elaborates, “There’s a shift towards functional medicine, a more personalised approach to healthcare. People are proactively seeking health and wellness support, a trend we’ve noticed for some time and one growing ever bigger since the pandemic. We have an ageing population because we’re keeping people alive for longer, but they’re not really living. There’s so much people can do to keep vibrant and enjoy life fully.” One intervention of particular interest to Hardial and Samantha is Ozone Therapy. “This is the process of delivering ozone gas directly into your bloodstream to restore optimum cellular oxygenation. It can boost the immune system and improve many conditions. Very few clinics offer it, but the demand is there. With the might of Alitam behind us, we could be at the forefront of this movement to optimise health. As part of a group of likeminded people, so much can be done. Alitam can be way ahead of the curve, and what’s more exciting than that?”
Belief in Alitam
Hardial continues, “The landscape for pharmacy has changed. With reduced profitability from dispensing we need to look at new income streams. Extending the range of professional, private services is the way forward, offering more preventative healthcare and support for overall wellness. Millennials have different expectations; they want instant treatment – and for this they’re willing to pay. With the diversity of services offered by Alitam members, we’re in a uniquely powerful position to exploit this market. It’s magical that this combination of talent and experience has come together, all united in the great belief that this is the way forward. The atmosphere of collaboration and support is so positive and energising. I’m very proud to be a member.”
‘The recognition we deserve’
“There’s another aspect too,” continues Hardial. “Through Alitam there’s finally a recognition of the hard work that’s been put into these pharmacy businesses for many years. Yes, there is financial reward, but of enormous value to me personally is the championing of all that pharmacists do. It’s as if we’re being awarded at last.”
Feisal Nahaboo, the founder of Alitam enthuses, “What a shining example of the pharmacy of the future. Hardial and his wife have consistently shown the value of looking ahead, taking a leap and delivering services which have moved the entire sector forward. This is the very spirit of Alitam. They are a very valuable addition to the team.”