Broadcast regulator Ofcom on Monday received over 2,300 complaints after panellists on ITV’s This Morning show called pharmacists ‘pretend doctors.’
Shocked and irate pharmacists took to Twitter to lambaste the TV network for misrepresenting pharmacists and calling the trained professionals ‘pretend doctors’ and ‘shopkeepers’.
Pharmacy bodies reacted sharply by calling the comments ‘ill-informed’ and ‘denigrating a profession.’
Sandra Gidley, President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said: The comments made… were extremely disappointing and concerning.”
“Pharmacists, including myself, were infuriated by the comments made denigrating a profession which on a daily basis saves people’s lives. 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,” she added.
An NPA spokesperson said: “The ill-judged remarks 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.”
The Pharmacist Cooperative called the show ‘a gross attack on the profession’ and said that the journalist who offered their opinions had no healthcare knowledge or background.
“The program failed to offer a balanced view as there wasn’t a pharmacist present to frankly and honestly challenge the ignorant assumptions made by the journalists on the show. This was both reckless and irresponsible”, Pharmacist Cooperative said in a statement.
“The interview, in which journalists not only incorrectly referred to pharmacists as ‘chemists’, but also labelled them as ‘pretend doctors’ and shopkeepers was a tirade of insults and showed blatant disregard for these hard-working healthcare professionals,” it added.
The comments were made on ITV’s flagship programme This Morning on Friday during a live television segment titled ‘Should chemists tell their customers they are fat?’
In what’s seen as a misguided vitriol on pharmacy, journalist and broadcaster Sam Delaney, one of the two discussants on the show, said: “I’m all for doctors pointing this out, because this is a medical issue, behind closed doors.
“But a chemists’ is a very public place. You could be in Boots. It could be very crowded in there and suddenly you are being called fat, by a chemist, who, I think, society generally, rightly or wrongly, don’t have much respect anyway because we think they are pretend doctors a lot of the time.”
At this point, programme co-host, Ruth Langsford, intervened and said: “I think there is something in this. If it’s not something too major, you can go to the pharmacist and not somebody on the till.”
The other discussant, Venessa Feltz, felt that people could certainly confide in a pharmacist and ask for general advice such as: “Look I think I have over-indulged at Christmas, I really am in despair. Can you help me lose a bit of weight? What do you think I should do? Are there any products?”
However, she wouldn’t like “being ambushed by some pharmacist” while looking for a scarlet nail varnish in a pharmacy and being told: “That nail polish doesn’t suit you, and, by the way, you are fat.”
Langsford intervened to point out that pharmacies did have a “private room” for consultation and said what if a pharmacist offered privacy to discuss the issue.
Delauney shot back and said he would be “absolutely livid” with any such suggestion.
He continued: “I’d say, listen, you are a chemist, all you do is, you go and collect the box of pills that I have been given as prescription for, from behind your shelf. Which is what they do don’t they?”
While fellow guest on the programme, Feltz, was reminding him that pharmacists did “take years to qualify,” show host Eamonn Holmes intervened to add: “Lots of shopkeepers have things to sell. That’s the thing. You always think, it’s just a way of them shifting products from the shelves.”
Pharmacist Harpreet Chana was one the pharmacists to vent out her anger via a tweet:
Appalled!? the clip from @rpharms tweet on @thismorning re #pharmacy & #pharmacists(who train for 5yrs)being called pretend Drs,Shopkeepers & tabs pickers!I’m not just angry at @delaneyman for his ignorance but that his view is widespread & nothing is ever done to correct it ? https://t.co/CHLu9x30cF pic.twitter.com/CNPCFo6tlS
— Harpreet Chana (@harpreetkchana) January 18, 2020
The RPS tweeted that it has taken “immediate action” and has written to ITV “to address the inaccuracies in the programme.”
It’s president added that RPS has contacted journalist Sam Delaney and offered him a visit to a pharmacy to see at first-hand what hard-working pharmacists do on a daily basis.
The Society has also contacted journalist Vanessa Feltz to discuss opportunities to inform her radio listeners about the services pharmacists provide.
We are extremely disappointed by comments made about the role of pharmacists in supporting people's health on ITV's This Morning programme today. We haven taken immediate action by writing to ITV to address inaccuracies in the programme. #ThisMorning #wearepharmacy
— Royal Pharmaceutical Society (@rpharms) January 17, 2020
Meanwhile, a hashtag #whatwedoinpharmacy soon started trending on twitter.
Pharmacists train at masters degree level for 4 years then undertake a year’s preregistration training. Experts on medicines, minor illness, health promotion eg. diet, smoking, alcohol. #whatwedoinpharmacy pic.twitter.com/4IovQiOhqj
— Claire Anderson (@Clairewynn) January 19, 2020
@thismorning @DelaneyMan You don't insult an entire profession and expect us to lie down and accept it. You see, we are pharmacists and pharmacy staff and we fight all day for healthcare against funding cuts, short staffing and pressure. We will not accept it. #whatwedoinpharmacy
— Laura Buckley (@laulok) January 19, 2020
As a pharmacist I’m able to give emergency supply medications to travellers who have genuinely forgot to bring their mediation with them which will help save their life and can also enjoy their holidays without feeling anxious.
That what a pharmacist does..#pharmacyourpeofession https://t.co/ykt5cBKbRO
— Hala Jawad (@jawad_hala) January 19, 2020
Pharmacy teams are incredibly dedicated.
We recently got petrol bombed. Did we close? No.
My team came in early to make sure we could open on time and our patients could access their medicines.#whatwedoinpharmacy@thismorning pic.twitter.com/M5VB2C3FHQ
— Amanda Smith (@HfxAmanda) January 19, 2020
Update to our #ThisMorning follow up.
We have asked to appear on This Morning and address misconceptions
We have asked to talk to Vanessa Feltz on radio
— Royal Pharmaceutical Society (@rpharms) January 20, 2020
We're the largest UK pharmacist organisation with 30,000+ members. We hope @thismorning will feature an item to put the record straight. Community pharmacists are the most accessible health professionals in the @NHSuk and we need to help the public understand what we actually do. https://t.co/plOpEd8v8X
— The PDA (@the_pda) January 19, 2020
— Ruby (@RubyMughal2) January 19, 2020
— Akash Sood (@kash_sood) January 19, 2020
Shame on @RuthieeL and @EamonnHolmes for allowing this one sided view of pharmacy and PHARMACISTS (not “chemists”) to air without providing the opinions of someone who actually knows what they are talking about when it comes to #pharmacy ?#thismorning #WeArePharmacy
— Rebecca (@Happydaisys2020) January 20, 2020
According to the RPS, the television network has apologised: “Referring to this specific topic we apologise if there was any offence caused,” but we have yet to see a public statement or formal apology from any of the TV personalities involved in the programme.