The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has expressed ‘disappointment and concern’ over comments made on a television programme that branded pharmacists ‘pretend doctors…[the public] doesn’t have much respect for’.
In a segment on ITV’s This Morning on Friday (17 January), the journalist Sam Delaney blasted guidance from the National Institute for health and Care Excellence (NICE) encouraging pharmacists to play a greater role in health prevention.
The guidance would allow pharmacists to ‘intervene’ if they considered a patient to be overweight, Mr Delaney claimed. He said: ‘Suddenly you’re being called fat by a chemist, who I think society generally – rightly or wrongly – don’t have much respect for anyway because we think that they’re pretend doctors a lot of the time.’
Broadcaster Vanessa Feltz, another guest on the programme, commented that patients wouldn’t want to be ‘ambushed by some pharmacist’ when they were in the pharmacy browsing for other products.
RPS president Sandra Gidley said the comments were ‘extremely disappointing and concerning’.
‘Pharmacists, including myself, were infuriated by the comments made denigrating a profession that on a daily basis saves people’s lives,’ she added.
ITV said that it ‘apologises if there was any offence caused’ and stressed that This Morning’s views were not always reflected by the ‘often…personal or light-hearted views’ of the programme’s segment contributors.
This Morning will be running an item this week on what services patients can expect to receive from pharmacists, featuring a ‘top pharmacist explaining the valuable service they offer’, it added.
During the segment Mr Delaney said he would be happy for a GP to intervene if they considered his weight to be a medical issue because the interaction would be ‘behind closed doors’, but stressed that pharmacies were more public places.
This Morning host Ruth Langford defended patients visiting their pharmacist for complaints that are not ‘too major’ and said that most pharmacies have private consultation rooms for such conversations to take place in.
However, Mr Delaney said he would be ‘absolutely livid’ if a pharmacist invited him for a conversation about his health in a consultation room. ‘You’re a chemist,’ he said. ‘All you do is collect the box of pills that I’ve been given a prescription for from behind your shelf.’
This Morning co-presenter Eamon Holmes suggested that the new NICE guidance could offer pharmacist an opportunistic way to make money. He asked: ‘They’re also shopkeepers with things to sell, so do you think it’s just a way for them to shift products?’
The comments garnered over 2,300 complaints to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which told The Pharmacist it is deciding whether or not to investigate the issue.
RPS ‘takes action’
Ms Gidley said the RPS has already taken action, inviting Mr Delaney to visit a pharmacy ‘to see at first-hand what hard-working pharmacists do on a daily basis’. ‘We have also contacted journalist Vanessa Feltz to discuss opportunities to inform her radio listeners about the services pharmacists provide,’ she said.
She added: ‘Given that many describe the NHS as being at breaking point, particularly with growing A&E waiting times and staffing shortages, we should be recognising and promoting the vital role pharmacists play in providing healthcare and supporting patients.’
A spokesperson from the National Pharmacy Association said: ‘The ill-judged remarks on This Morning about community pharmacists being “pretend doctors” are a reminder that there’s lots still to do to raise awareness.
‘The NPA is frequently in touch with broadcast journalists to grow understanding of the benefits pharmacies deliver. We tell them that pharmacists are highly qualified health care professionals, offering convenient care and delivering vital NHS services.’
ITV commented to The Pharmacist: ‘The role of pharmacists in supporting people’s health and the controversial suggestion from [NICE] that pharmacists should comment on customers weight was discussed on Friday’s show as part of a wider daily segment, which covers the day’s news topics.
‘During this segment contributors often express their personal or light-hearted views, which do not always reflect the views of This Morning. Referring to this specific topic we apologise if there was any offence caused.
‘The suggestion from the NHS regulator has prompted This Morning this week to run an item on services to expect when visiting a chemist, with a top pharmacist explaining the valuable service they offer.’