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Pharmacists defend profession after GP column calls them ‘redundant’


By Allie Anderson
Freelance journalist

08 Jul 2021

Pharmacists have angrily hit out at a GP columnist for describing the sector as ‘incongruous’ and ‘redundant’. 

In the provocative opinion piece, published by The Pharmacist’s sister title Pulse, Tony Copperfield said pharmacists could do their job ‘with a cupboard, a car and a grade C in maths’. 

He added: ‘The main function of community pharmacy is to flog placebos, leave me with surplus flu vaccines and tell patients to see their GP for antibiotics when they don’t really need them. 

‘All this, of course, within that uncomfortable tension of pitching for scientific credibility while running a shop.’ 

The column was in retaliation to comments made earlier this week by Boots CEO Sebastian James, who praised the pharmacy chain’s staff for ‘stepping forward at a time when the rest of primary care had really, more or less, disappeared’. 

Responding on Twitter to Copperfield’s article, pharmacists and GPs alike condemned his comments as ‘massively off mark’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘misinformed [and] arrogant’, and ‘childish trolling’. 

GP Dr Selvaseelan Selvarajah said: ‘He is massively off mark… Community pharmacies are an asset. I don’t think he has ever spent a day in one. GPs will collapse without the support of community pharmacy and vice versa.’ 

Dr Dean Eggitt, also a GP, added: ‘This article is poor and not the usual standard. Pharmacists are highly trained, intelligent, and needed.’ 

Advanced pharmacist practitioner, NHS 111 clinical advisor and former locum community pharmacist, Minna Eii, said in her experience, few GPs share Copperfield’s views.  

She told The Pharmacist: ‘I believe this article is the voice of a minority and I have worked with lots of amazing GPs who value the input of community pharmacists, calling for more collaborative working. 

‘The pandemic isn’t over and this is not the time to squabble. It doesn’t do anything for patient care and we should unite to brainstorm how to get out the pandemic together.’ 

Community pharmacist Rachael Patel described Copperfield’s column as ‘totally unhelpful profession bashing’.  

‘Glad to know what you think of my chosen profession. You show no insight into what we do. Working together is the right thing for patients,’ she added. 

Thorrun Govind, chair of the RPS English pharmacy board, questioned: ‘Can you imagine how much stronger Primary Care could be if GP/Dentistry/Optometry, every single aspect of primary care worked together and worked to understand each other’s roles better.’ 


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