The pharmacy world was united in shock and sadness at the death on Saturday of Kirit Patel, chief executive of the Day Lewis group. Tributes flooded in on social media as people reacted to the news of the sudden passing of one of the most significant and popular figures in UK pharmacy.
A statement issued today (July 18) by the family and senior management team of Day Lewis said his legacy includes a company consisting of 280 pharmacies in the UK, employing over 2,000 people and serving over 1 million patients annually.
The statement continued: “Kirit had invested significant time planning for the future in recent years. The next generation, his children Jay, Rupa and Sam, with full support of JC Patel (co-founder and brother), will continue to lead Day Lewis and uphold Kirit’s values, deliver his vision and protect his legacy.
“The company’s experienced senior management team will continue in their current responsibilities and no changes are anticipated in the company’s day-to-day business activities.”
Peter Glover, superintendent and head of professional services, said: “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. The family and senior team will continue to drive forward Kirit’s vision for Day Lewis for 2020 and beyond.”
Kirit set up the business in 1975 with his brother JC Patel, buying their first two pharmacies in Southborough, Kent. The name Day Lewis came from one of the early pharmacies they acquired, thought to be named after the poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis. Last year Day Lewis celebrated 40 years in business and is one of the largest family-owned pharmacy chains in Europe.
Kirit Patel was born in Kisumu in Kenya, east Africa, the eldest of six; his father was a hardware merchant. A difficult political situation in Kenya meant that Kirit came to Truro, Cornwall, for boarding school, and then stayed and set up business in the UK.
He graduated as a pharmacist from Portsmouth School of Pharmacy in 1974, moving on to work for Boots. He later gained a range of degrees from Westminster University, Brighton University and an MBA from Warton School, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania. This year he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bath. He proudly received an MBE from the Queen in 2005.
His interests were wide, and within pharmacy he held roles at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society including the post of Treasurer, was chair of the National Pharmacy Association from 1992 to 2004, and was currently vice-chair of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. He received many awards, including CEO of the year from PwC and Day Lewis was 2010 Coutts Family Business of the Year.
Kirit also served on the Small Business Council and later the Better Regulation Task Force.
He was passionate about running Day Lewis, one of the UK’s largest independent chains, as a family business, with several members of the family involved on the team. His children Jay, Rupa and Sam have all joined the company in recent years as directors.
He was a strong supporter of gaining, using and sharing business expertise, and wrote widely about his experiences of using his learning from his MBA to drive the company forward. Day Lewis is known for its resilience, innovation within the pharmacy sector, and a strong focus on its employees.
The company has achieved Gold Investors in People status, an accolade that few businesses hold. He was immensely proud of the company’s success, family culture and charitable giving.
Among the many people posting on social media in response to the news, England’s chief pharmacist Keith Ridge said: “Kirit was a hero for many, including for me. His spirit and vision will live on.”
Helen Gordon, chief executive of the RPS, added: “Pharmacy has lost one of its great leaders today. Devastating. I’m better for having known him.”
Rob Darracott of Pharmacy Voice said “For almost 30 years Kirit Patel has been my friend, supporter, counsel and colleague. Generous and genuine.”
Nigel Clarke, chair of the GPhC, posted: “Much saddened by loss of Kirit Patel. Generous, committed, great leader for UK pharmacy.”
Sue Sharpe, chief executive of PSNC, said in a statement: “I know that anyone who knew Kirit will be as shocked and as sad as I am about this sudden news. Kirit’s passion and zeal for community pharmacy were unequalled. Kirit was a mentor to many and a good friend and colleague for all at PSNC. He will be greatly missed.”
The NPA called Kirit “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. For all these reasons and more, Kirit will be greatly missed. Kirit was a longstanding supporter of the NPA, a former chairman of the Association, and a true friend to many members of our Board.”
Kirit’s family will be hosting a memorial celebration this Saturday (July 23) from 2pm till 9pm at his family home and would be “delighted for any and all friends, family and colleagues to come at any time during the day to share uplifting memories of a life well-lived”.