The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, has received more than 2,300 complaints following comments made about pharmacists on ITV’s This Morning.
As part of a discussion broadcast on 17 January 2020, guest Sam Delaney, a journalist and broadcaster, said that patients could end up “being called ‘fat’ by a chemist who I think society generally — rightly or wrongly — don’t [sic] have much respect for anyway because we think that they’re pretend doctors”.
He also said that pharmacists’ job was to “collect the box of pills behind them”.
The TV show discussion followed publication of a draft quality standard from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on how community pharmacists can promote health and wellbeing. It suggested that community pharmacists could offer advice on weight loss, stopping smoking, cutting down on drinking as part of general discussions with patients about adopting a healthy lifestyle.
A spokesperson for Ofcom told The Pharmaceutical Journal that 2,313 complaints had so far been made since the programme was broadcast. Figures from the regulator show that this could place it in the top ten most complained about TV shows over the past decade.
Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), described the comments as “extremely disappointing and concerning”, adding that “pharmacists have a huge amount to offer the NHS and we work extensively across it”.
“Pharmacists, including myself, were infuriated by the comments made denigrating a profession which, on a daily basis, saves people’s lives,” 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.”
Gidley went on to explain how the RPS is pursuing opportunities with ITV to profile the pharmacy profession on This Morning, adding that the Society had also contacted Delaney to “offer him a visit to a pharmacy to see at first-hand what hard-working pharmacists do on a daily basis”.
Fatema Mamdani, an ambassador for the RPS, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that she had emailed ITV to express her “extreme disappointment” at the programme.
Mamdani said many people were “shocked and outraged” by the views expressed, especially as “there has been a shift in role of pharmacists, as is clear in the NHS long-term plan”.
“It is disappointing to hear that the public don’t trust us enough to value our opinion,” she added, saying the segment was “unbalanced [with] no pharmacist available on the show to balance the opinions”.
Following the broadcast, pharmacists took to Twitter to share the range of activities that they perform as part of a typical working day.
A spokesperson for ITV told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the pharmacy comments were part of a wider discussion of that day’s news. “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 spokesperson said.
#WhatweDoInPharmacy Prescribing on daily consultant led rounds, updating guidelines/PGDs, prescribing in outpatient clinics, phlebotomy, clinical exam, consultations, antimicrobial stewardship, therapeutic drug monitoring, drug admin/compat advice, DEprescribing, teaching etc…
— Eimear (@eimear_gordon) 19 January 2020
As a community pharmacist I support people with their health from the moment they are born until they take their last breath. Where else can you walk in off the street and be talking to a highly trained healthcare professional within 5 minutes?#whatwedoinpharmacy
— Amanda Smith (@HfxAmanda) 19 January 2020