A pharmacy technician who was fundamental to the growth of the pharmacy team has celebrated after spending 50 years working for the NHS.

Balu Chauhan, 71, from Edgware, first started working for the NHS in 1970 as a student pharmacy technician for just £8 a week.

Years later, he joined the Royal Free Hospital at Hampstead in 1970 and continued his career ever since - even after retirement.

Mr Chauhan had to officially retire in 2009 to start claiming his pension, but he quickly returned to work part-time for three days a week.

Among other jobs his role includes helping to repurpose drugs that haven’t been used by patients on the wards.

He said: “I enjoyed the first month of my retirement but by the second I was itching to get back to work. I don’t have a hobby I find more interesting than my job.

“I enjoy gardening but retirement isn’t for me, certainly not for a while. Pharmacy is a wonderful department to work in - it’s incredibly friendly and sociable. I also like being able to use my skills to benefit patients – it feels a bit of a waste to not use that.”

However due to the Covid-19 pandemic and his age, he had to shield himself for most of the lockdown.

But now after returning to work he said: “I had to stay at home but I don’t mind admitting I found it incredibly boring. I was longing to get back to work!”

He said it was the staff and patients that kept him coming back to work.

Since Mr Chauhan joined the pharmacy team has tripled in size, in 1986 he was instrumental in turning the hospital pharmacy into a business that could manufacture and sell drugs to other trusts, companies and chemists across the UK.

In the first year they were targeted with achieving a turnover of £10,000 but they made £37,000. Now turnover from supplying external organisations is in excess of £2.5 million, money which is reinvested into the NHS.

Wendy Spicer, chief pharmacist at the Royal Free Hospital, said: “Balu is a perfect example of our trust values. He’s hard working, helpful, kind, respectful and always there for his patients and his colleagues. He’s truly inspirational, everyone knows him across the trust and we’re extremely lucky to have kept him for so long. He epitomises the very best of the NHS.”