Hingley Pharmacy Celebrates its 50th Anniversary (1964-2014)
MEJ Hingley & Co Ltd was formed in the 1960s by the present Managing Director Michael Hingley and his wife Sheila. The aim was then, and now, to provide the highest possible standards of service and an excellent local community pharmacy service.
Today Hingley Pharmacy operates eleven busy community pharmacy stores throughout the West Midlands, as well as a drugstore and an online pharmacy (PharmacyDirectGB).
The business is very much a family concern, with Michael and Sheila’s daughters Jane and Claire both taking an active part in the company.
The Dawning of a New Era
Michael and Sheila opened their first chemist’s shop on Monday 1st October 1964, in Green Lane, Small Heath, Birmingham. The business had been bought from the previous proprietor N.S. Uttley. They were both 28 years old. Sheila had never worked in a shop before and although Michael had qualified as a pharmacist in 1958, he had only recently completed National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The mid-1960s was a time when the pharmaceutical industry was bringing to the public the benefits of its research over previous decades. As a result of the introduction of new antibiotics, deaths from bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and meningitis were drastically reduced. Other drugs developed at this time, such as the contraceptive pill would have a deep and lasting impact on society as a whole.
Expansion and Development
Michael and Sheila had moved to Small Heath as a recently married couple to set up a business and serve the local community. Their freshness, enthusiasm and openness was much appreciated. This approach, coupled with hard work and a commitment to serving the community soon paid off and in due course, Michael and Sheila were able to expand the business, buying additional pharmacies around the West Midlands.
The first was a pharmacy in Hereford, the second in Ladywood, Birmingham. Then followed branches in Worcester and Wolverhampton, Nuneaton, Solihull, Northfield, Rowley Regis, Cradley Heath, Alum Rock and Highgate, Birmingham.
Each new pharmacy was bought with the intention of employing a pharmacist manager to serve the community as if the business was his, or her own. Service was the priority and in contrast to national multiple-pharmacy chains, the company never skimped on stock or staff levels.
While Michael concentrated on the pharmaceutical side of the business Sheila’s role became ever more wide-ranging. She was the ‘people person’ – so necessary to a business which would eventually come to employ some 80 staff.
Devoting herself to the paperwork and book keeping, for over 20 years Sheila also did the weekly wages, becoming an expert on PAYE, National Insurance and the ways of the local tax office. Sick pay, maternity pay, and annual leave arrangements were dealt with fairly and quickly. Sheila checked every invoice for what would amount to millions of pounds each year, the signature on every cheque written was hers.
The 1970s saw new advances in the treatment of high blood pressure, with a simple tablet – beta-blockers – prescribed by doctors, available from the chemist. Beta-blockers were followed in the 1980s by “ace-inhibitors”. Meanwhile drugs which could heal stomach ulcers within weeks, greatly decreased the need for surgical treatment. New anti-depressant drugs introduced in the 1980s offered a whole new way of treating some mental health problems. In the 1990s advances in pharmacology led to many cancers becoming treatable.
Advances in drug regimes was not the only way in which pharmacy had progressed in the five decades since Michael and Sheila Hingley opened their first shop. Dispensaries saw their first computers in the 1980s, enabling pharmacists to print labels for medicines. The computer age became firmly established with the advent of computerised medication records and electronic ordering systems.
Hingley Pharmacy at Yardley Green Medical Centre became the first pharmacy in Birmingham to use fully-automated, robot dispensing. Computers in the ground floor dispensary transmit barcoded information on prescriptions to the robot on the first floor. The robot is then able to select drugs from the shelves and deliver them to the dispensary below, using a system of conveyor belts and slides. These medicines are labelled and double-checked by the pharmacist before being given to the patient.
Meanwhile the company’s Green Lane pharmacy was the first in Birmingham to offer a full prescription dispensing service via the internet. PharmacyDirectGB begun in 2008, has customers worldwide, not only throughout Europe but from as far afield as Australia, Fiji and even North Korea.
A Modern Community Pharmacy Service
Today the service that the company provides to the community is far more extensive than it was in 1964. Many more drugs and medicines are available now – drugs and medicines which are far more effective than the remedies available in the 1960s. And whilst in one respect a pharmacist’s working life has got easier, in other ways the skills and professionalism of the ‘chemist’ has been greatly extended.
Five decades ago it was still commonplace for the local chemist to make up a prescription from raw ingredients kept in the pharmacy. Today that is a rare event as proprietary products ready-made and packaged are the norm.
Although pre-packaging makes life easier, the very strength and efficacy of modern medicines make a pharmacist’s knowledge of drug action and interaction more critical than ever.
Other aspects of the service have changed significantly too. The number of ‘over the counter’ products has increased dramatically over the decades, as has the range of services commissioned by the NHS. For most ‘high street chemists’ the core of their business is the dispensing of NHS prescriptions.
Today, Hingley’s pharmacists operate a whole range of services including: home deliveries, repeat prescriptions, disposal of unwanted medicines, services for substance abusers, maintenance of patient medication records, medicines advice for overseas travel, and “medicines use reviews”.
The pharmacist and trained assistants are available to give advice on all medicines and minor ailments, in private if required. Advice is also available on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, for example, how to stop smoking, or eating a more healthy diet.
But if much has changed, one important thing has not. The standard of service to the community which Michael and Sheila Hingley set out to offer in 1964 remains exactly the same.
Sadly Sheila Hingley passed away in November 2010. Michael and Sheila’s daughters Jane, a pharmacist, and Claire, a solicitor, are now Directors and shareholders in the company, a business which still maintains the same values and aspiration to serve the community which has sustained it since 1964.