Kirit Patel, co-founder and chief executive of the Day Lewis Group of high street pharmacies, has died suddenly on 16 July 2016 at the age of 66 years.
Patel, a former government small businesses adviser, began the company with just two pharmacies in Southborough, Kent, in 1975.
Today, the chain comprises more than 250 pharmacies across the south east of England, employing more than 2,000 people and caring for more than 1 million patients each year.
His contribution to pharmacy was recognised in 2005 when he was awarded Membership of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s honours list.
Pete Glover, pharmacy superintendent and head of professional services at Day Lewis, says: “Kirit’s brilliance, passion and generosity have touched so many lives. The pharmacy industry, indeed the public, is immeasurably better because of Kirit’s significant involvement.”
While Patel’s business success on the high street was recognised in a number of national awards for entrepreneurship, these were matched by a string of professional achievements.
He was the current vice chair of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the body that negotiates contractual terms for the provision of NHS community pharmacy services in England. He first became a member of the PSNC in 1998.
Patel was also chair of the National Pharmaceutical Association (now known as the National Pharmacy Association [NPA]), which represents community pharmacy owners, from 1999 to 2000 and was a founding member of the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies.
He was elected to the council of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in 2000. Two years later he became its treasurer and the same year was among the first to be awarded RPS fellowship. Until his death he was a member of the RPS panel that decides who should be given fellowship status.
Outside of pharmacy, his other achievements include fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Business and in 2007 and 2009 he was named among Britain’s top 100 UK entrepreneurs by Management Today and was recognised as one of the most influential Asians in Britain, according to the annual Asian Media Marketing Power List.
A spokesperson for the NPA says: “We are truly saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Kirit Patel – a giant of independent community pharmacy. Kirit was an inspiration to future generations of pharmacy owners as he and his family built the Day Lewis business from a small base into the largest independent multiple in the country.
“Throughout this decades-long process, he never forgot his roots and identity as an independent. Our sector has lost an immense talent, a leader and a force of energy. Kirit was a long-standing supporter of the NPA, a former chair of the association, and a true friend to many members of our board. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Helen Gordon, chief executive of the RPS, expressed “sorrow” and “disbelief” at his death. “He was a friend and colleague who stood out as a strong, principled and engaging leader who was bold and pragmatic in embracing change in pharmacy, his approach underpinned by a genuine drive to be good to people,” she says, adding that he was “passionate” about patient care and that his support for the RPS was “genuine”.
“He was committed to young pharmacists and lived according to four business principles — respect and care for people; aspire to achieve the impossible; create a network of support; and never stop learning. He lived by these words. They resonate with me in my personal leadership story, and they are areas that we aim to extol at the RPS.”
Sue Sharpe, chief executive of the PSNC, says she was saddened and shocked at his sudden death: “Kirit’s passion and zeal for community pharmacy were unequalled as we saw throughout our PSNC meetings and in all of his work on behalf of the sector. Kirit was a mentor to many and a good friend and colleague for all at the PSNC; he will be greatly missed.”
In a company statement, Day Lewis says Patel’s values and vision for the business will be maintained by his children — Jay, Rup and Sam — supported by his brother and company co-founder, JC Patel.
A memorial celebration of his life has been organised by his family, according to his wishes, on 23 July 2016 at the family home from 2pm until 9pm.
In a statement, the family says: “Kirit was very clear to us that when this sad day would come, we must celebrate with laughter rather than mourn with sadness. Champagne and music were mentioned specifically.”