Following the launch of its new blood-testing services, Kani Haki, director of Knightsbridge Pharmacy, talks to the Knightsbridge Edit about the ways people are prioritising their mental and physical healthWords: Gemma Billington
Take your health into your own hands
We all know the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But when it comes to health, people are increasingly choosing to take agency of their physical and mental wellbeing rather than waiting for something to go drastically wrong before seeking professional help.
This change of approach has been largely attributed to the pandemic and its aftermath. This is in part due to necessity, with an NHS under increasing strain. Demand for hospital care was already outstripping capacity before Covid, and in the years since there have been record backlogs and waiting times to see a GP or access treatment. In 2023, around 7.21 million people are waiting for treatment, compared with 4.43 million in February 2020.
Kani Haki, director of the Knightsbridge Pharmacy on Brompton Road, has seen first-hand the healthcare woes of patients and their changing approaches to self-care. Like many pharmacies in SW1X, such as Hayatt and Prince Pharmacy, Knightsbridge Pharmacy is renowned for its aesthetic services and luxury skincare products that rival Space NK. But it has now also launched in-store blood-testing services.
‘We realised, especially during Covid, that people kept complaining about not getting GP appointments and not getting blood-test appointments,’ Kani explains. ‘So we started our blood-testing services thinking it probably wouldn’t get any traction, but at least it was something.’ In the space of just a few months, the demand, she says, has been unprecedented. ‘We’ve been inundated with requests for blood tests. I never expected it.’
It’s easy to see why the service has been so successful. A cursory glance of the pharmacy’s website reveals a comprehensive list of health-test screenings, ranging from thyroid, a vitamin D profile and cholesterol tests at £60 a pop to full hormonal health checks (for men and women) and an advanced MOT health check that analyses over 150 biomarkers. The process is also refreshingly simple, with appointments generally available on the same day – the online booking service is as easy as ordering a takeaway – and results emailed directly to your inbox the following day. ‘It cuts out the middleman,’ says Kani. ‘You’re taking your health into your own hands.’
This direct and affordable approach to healthcare and knowledge dovetails with the booming at-home health care testing industry. The dizzying number of kits available to order online can check for everything from vitamin deficiencies to genetic predispositions towards certain diseases, allergies and intolerances (Randox, 23andMe, Thriva, Forma) and even hormone levels and egg quality (Hertility). While one should always exercise caution with such tests and do the necessary homework, many would argue that this is the future of healthcare and a way of harnessing control.
A more hands-on and premium approach is the partnership between Echelon Health and Mandarin Oriental. This bespoke service is a comprehensive personal health assessment using state-of-the-art medical technology. Guests are picked up in a taxi and whizzed between appointments in and around Harley Street. These include numerous blood tests, an MRI scan, ultrasound and mole checks. After a long day of being prodded and poked, you’ll be ferried to Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London for a luxurious overnight stay and £200 towards spa treatments or food and drink. The results are delivered in-person (or via Zoom) in less than two weeks and the consultation lasts around an hour to go through every detail with a fine-tooth comb and plan a course of action, if necessary.
Talking to a professional who can cut out the medical jargon is always a preferable option for peace of mind. As such, Kani is keen to position the pharmacy as a pillar of the community; a safe space where you can seek expert advice and treatment.
‘The pharmacist is imperative for a local community, and I do feel like there should be more emphasis on that,’ she says. ‘Your first port of call for minor ailments should be your local pharmacy, because 9 out of 10 times you’re going to get the help you need without having to seek detailed medical attention. I think a lot of people don’t realise that what you’re waiting for from a GP you can get over a counter at a chemist. You study for five years [as a pharmacist], so you do have a good wealth of knowledge and education. We take pride in our pharmacy because we take out all that difficulty for you; we’ll remind you when you need to top up your prescription and we’ll talk to the GP for you.’
Kani and her team go above and beyond for clients, with a 24/7 WhatsApp service (which you can use even if you’ve never set foot inside the pharmacy) and home visits offered to local, often elderly patients. Kensington-based Kani has worked in Knightsbridge for 11 years and is passionate about the area, which she describes as “home”.
‘I love Knightsbridge so much,’ she gushes. ‘Yes, you get a huge influx of tourists all year round, but alongside that, the residents are so warm and inviting that you become so close with them. The relationships become very personal. My favourite thing about the neighbourhood is that everyone knows you by name. So every morning I’ll go to Carpo and I’ll see George and he gives me my coffee… Everyone helps everyone, including the pharmacies. You would naturally think there would be a rivalry but it’s quite the opposite.’
One such ally is Harrods Pharmacy. It may come as a surprise that such a humble high street service exists within the cavernous walls of the luxury department store. And while it may offer the same services as your local chemist, the Harrods Pharmacy is naturally in a league of its own, in particular when it comes to luxury vitamins and supplements.
Harrods Pharmacy is an exclusive stockist of Manuka South Limited Reserve UMF32+ Manuka Honey, famed for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Then there’s the Pure Himalayan Cordyceps Gold supplements, which are made from the mummified caterpillars of the Himalayan ghost moth and are apparently favoured by Olympic athletes for their ability to build strength, stamina and vitality. Thirty vials of this wonder drug costs an eye-watering £5,995, which may be beyond the reach of the average shopper – though perhaps not if your local is Harrods. Even so, it’s good to know that there are plenty of affordable alternatives within SW1X.
High street favourite Holland & Barrett was founded in 1870 and has been a one-stop shop for vitamins and supplements for decades. But these days it has a wealth of useful information and services for people curious about their health. The website is filled with tips, articles and recipes under the dedicated Health Hub, and the company has also launched a 90-day gut health challenge, encouraging people to speak to an expert and find solutions for this increasingly important yet little understood area of wellbeing. This is based on research Holland & Barrett did that found that almost 60% of people shy away from talking about their gut health. Whatever your concerns or curiosity, you can also book a 15-minute free consultation to talk to someone in-store and plan your bespoke course of vitamins accordingly.
Not so long ago, vitamins and supplements were something that only interested your hippy aunt. Now, it’s a billion-dollar industry and, for many, an efficient and affordable way of taking charge of your health.
‘People are going crazy for supplements and probiotics,’ agrees Kani. ‘The demand is high and people are a lot more knowledgeable. Covid was 100 per cent a wake-up call for this. People are taking control of their health and I love that. Knowledge is power.’