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ITV faces backlash for ‘outdated’ comments about ‘pretend doctors’

The programme was broadcast on the morning of Friday, January 17
The programme was broadcast on the morning of Friday, January 17

ITV faced a backlash from pharmacists and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) last week following “outdated” comments about the profession on This Morning.

On the show – which aired on Friday (January 17) – journalist Sam Delaney claimed that the government and doctors are “encouraging chemists to intervene and say that…‘You’re too fat, you’re overweight’”.

“Pretend doctors”

In a discussion triggered by draft National Institute for health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidance on community pharmacists’ roles, Mr Delaney explained that he is “all for doctors pointing this out…because it’s behind closed doors”, but claimed that “chemists are very public places”.

“You [could] be in Boots,” he gave as an example. “It could be very crowded in there and suddenly you’re being called fat by a chemist who I think society generally, right or wrongly, don’t have much respect for anyway, because we think they’re pretend doctors a lot of the time.”

While host Ruth Langsford defended the concept of visiting a pharmacy if “it’s not [for] something too major” and pointed out that the conversation would take place in a consultation room, guest Vanessa Feltz argued that patients “don’t want to be ambushed by some pharmacist”.

Host Eamonn Holmes also suggested patients may view the service as a cynical way for pharmacists to “shift products from the shelves”.

You can watch the comments on the ITV website (skip to 35 mins). The broadcaster told C+D this morning that it apologises for “any offence caused” (see below).

RPS takes “immediate action”

The programme prompted an outraged response from pharmacists on Twitter, as well as from the RPS, which said it took “immediate action by writing to ITV to address inaccuracies in the programme”.

“We are extremely disappointed by comments made about the role of pharmacists in supporting people's health on ITV's This Morning programme,” the society explained on Twitter.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom confirmed to C+D it has received 2,313 complaints about the comments so far, but has “yet to decide whether or not to investigate”.

Pharmacist Johnathan Laird also set up a #whatwedoinpharmacy Twitter campaign to counter the broadcast inaccuracies about pharmacists’ roles.

ITV apology “for any offence caused”

ITV told C+D that the segment had focused on “the role of pharmacists in supporting people’s health and the controversial suggestion from the NHS regulator that pharmacists should comment on customers’ weight”.

“During this segment contributors often express their personal or light-hearted views, which do not always reflect the views of This Morning,” it added. “Referring to this specific topic we apologise if there was any offence caused.”

The programme will running a segment this week “on services to expect when visiting a chemist, with a top pharmacist explaining the valuable service they offer”, it added.

Twitter reaction
What do you make of the comments on ITV?

patrick rooney, Pharmaceutical Adviser

In Britain retail pharmacy is a commercial activity. It has evolved to make money for the owner, not to benefit the public. The respect given is the same given to any succesful entrepreneur. We have sold our soul to Big Pharma and sell vastly overpriced nostrums agressively advertised to the gullible public because of the attractive margins. Have we the guts to clear our pharmacies of all the overpriced medicines and non medical trash?

I suggest that we turn the clock back. Demand the return of sale of all medicines to Pharmacy. Refuse to dispense prescriptions until a real fee is attached. If you are a pharmacist put on a white coat ,stand in a prominent position, to show you are available and let your qualified dispensers do their business.

Your pharmacies ,now divested of ancillary rubbish,can be made to look professional. Government led initiatives can be more easily published and given pride of place. Do this and respect will follow.

PS--On a purely practical note .If you are a single male pharmacist looking for a partner then choose hospital pharmacy,where respect and nubile nurses abound.

PPS--I am a 90 year old pharmacist and not a pervert !!

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

.... I said it here last year that the best boost pharmacists'  public image is ever going to get is that brave lass that appeared on love island last year .... and that says it all methinks

We’re all doomed, Locum pharmacist

Wally Dove one time PSNC chief stayed in the 90s that pharmacy needed a strong Boots. This was at the time when senior managers and executives were many fold throughout the company and within the profession. 
There is no longer a depth of pharmacists in such positions and an owner who makes £££££s out of the NHS  and Ms Channing's assesrtion stacks up  I've said it before and I'll remind everyone again our profession is totally fragmented and thus easily exploited  

I never saw myself as a pretend doctor I always thought that was the remit of Hospiral Pharmacists!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

It is the job of the RPS to promote the profession. And I am thinking of giving up membership as they just don't cut it. All I get for 200 quid a year is 12 glossy mags, an MEP, a website I never use and the ability to use MRPharmS after my name.

 (the GPhC exists to protect the public through regulation, I am surprised they have not popped up and said 'not our job' to people asking 'where is their response?')


Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Angela - Completely agree. I am not renewing my membership for exactly the same reasons. The RPS gives me nothing I cannot find somewhere else, with the possible exception of the MEP - but even then, the whole crux of any decision we make is that it is based on our individual professional judgement

Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Nothing will change the public perception. It's been said and this idiots view is the same as millions of others around the UK and the world.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

That doesn't mean one should give up on changing it. You can't change someone's perception, but you can expand their view. Pharmacy should be championing the good work it does in Primary Care.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

The continued growth of the multiples is predominantly at the bottom of the image problem.

That said, any nationally aired TV program should have a duty to provide factual information; or at least ensure facts are provided when their ‘light hearted guests’ get their information/facts wrong...?

Just to add, I hardly think it’s a controversial issue that Pharmacists are being asked to try to tackle obesity?

All Heath professionals within the NHS are being asked to support NHS England's initiative to reduce obesity - whether the general public want to accept this or not, obesity is the major cause of illness (ahead of smoking) and needs to be addressed......presumably this being mentioned to patients whilst in the Drs surgery hasn’t had the desired effect as obesity is still on the rise....

As for being called fat in front of everyone in the shop.....this is farcical, if nothing else it would be rude and of course this is not the intention......the 2 guests really showed how ignorant they are (to the whole country)......but the presenters showed have been able to confer this with information about Healthy Living Pharmacies, BP monitoring, Gluose and Cholesterol, smoking and alcohol advice - and weight management.....they all go hand in hand with NHS England’s Public Health message......

What is the point in having a segment on the show that doesn’t contain factual’s fake news....and this message seems to stick?

Medicine Master, Primary care pharmacist

Everybody is to blame except CP!

How much time has the Superintendent spent flying the flag for CP to outside bodies?

What has the average CP Pharmacist outside their employment done to fly the flag for pharmacy?

Green with envy at BMA- even though they don't always get it right


Leon The Apothecary, Student

I have to agree, when you compare to what other professional bodies have done over the last couple of years, Pharmacists are left more than wanting. Look at Paramedics, look at Nurses, Orthopaedics, Dietitians, they've all made significant strides over the recent years.

anti-depressed Pharmacist, Manager

One angry letter from the RPS, thanks for reinforcing why I don't pay your fees. It is too late to now take your head out of the sand after years of doing nothing. This is how the general public view Pharmacists and you can see it by the way we are treated by patients.

You only seem to be reactive than active, completely useless.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Is 'Our Sandra' going to go on This Morning and put the record straight?

Does any one know how much we pay her? Probably the same as Boris, if not more! Does anyone know how many are employed by RPS and what they all do all day?

Sadly Community pharmacy stopped being a profession many years ago. Probably mid-90s.

The explosion in schools of pharmacy has not helped at all as another poster states. And I totally agree on the calibre of today's pharmacy students. I asked one (just finished 3rd yr) a question last summer on furosemide, a loop diuretic, now if I can remember that and the loop of Henle after 30yrs, why can't they after less than 30 months?!? Worrying! Another one didn't know that fluoxetine used to be known as Prozac and was once one of the biggest selling drugs in the world and subject to huge media interest and controversy 20 yrs ago. Surely when doing SSRIs the lecturer would have mentioned this? Or do I just expect too much these days? Some can't even put a label on a box straight or select it without ticking all over it! Who started that nonsense?!?

And as for some pre-regs, they seem to have less knowledge after 4 years than we did after 3! What do they do in this '4th yr' ? Is it needed even? The high failure rate each year isn't surprising at all, having worked with many students every summer. I hate to say it, but many of them would not have got a place when there were only 15 schools of pharmacy. 

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

The contents taught in the uni degree are crap and not fit for modern pharmacy. They teach you how to make creams and complex pharmacology, clean room manufacturing and medicinal chemistry which I think is simply not fit for purpose. While these would be beneficial to one who goes into industrial sector, we have to ask what's the point of focusing that much time on these aspects when in reality community sector is the largest sector with most newly qualified pharmacists going into it. I still recalled back in the days we were taught to query everything that is unclear on a script and to spend 10 mins checking just ONE script, which is way too unrealistic and ridiculous. 

In uni they don't cover how drugs work and what side effects to look out for. They don't cover clinical assessment skills so I don't know how they expect pharmacists to know and be competent in it when working in general practice. They also don't cover treatment pathways, guidelines, local formularies, long term conditions management, what should be monitored and how to interpret blood tests results. I find this is absolutely outrageous and ridiculous as we call ourselves the medicine experts and experts in long term conditions management, yet we know nothing about them! I bet if you ask 10 community pharmacists what and how it should be monitored when a patient is on long term ACEI, and what additional monitoring are needed when dose is changed, I bet 8-9 out of 10 can't even tell you! And you wonder why the newly qualified these days have such a poor clinical knowledge and seem to know nothing at all, let alone giving proper otc advice! I personally think the 4 year degree is a complete waste of time and one probably learn even more useful stuff just within a year of pre reg! I've read somewhere else that pharmacy degree is a "degree barely touching the surface of both medicine and nursing but not diving deep enough into each" which tbh I completely agree with. Imminent actions need to be taken to reform or even revolutionise pharmacy degree education to make it fit for purpose to align with the nhs forward view and long-term plan, otherwise this profession will just go further down and down until it gets eliminated through natural selection. 



M G, Student

As a current student, I'll have to disagree. At my uni at least, we most definitely do have a focus on clinical skills, cover how drugs work in great detail, have to know about side effects, formularies, ethics and prescribing guidelines etc and a lot of the other topics you've mentioned, and I'm only in first year. However I do agree with you that the role needs expansion, and more energy focused in promoting the image of pharmacy by the RPS.

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

I do hope this is what's happening also at other unis, and that the programme has been redesigned to cover these... 

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

This comment is gonna get down voted for sure. You can call me cynical but I'm afraid this is the truth.

Although I strongly disagree with what he has said, in reality this is how the majority of the general public see us. They see community pharmacy merely like a click and collect counter or like fast food restaurants, and you wonder why there is zero respect and they talk to and treat us like scum. They see us as "pretend doctors", glorified shopkeepers whose only job is to pick a box off the shelf and slap a label on, which to them is a 5 second job, and that's why they kick off when told there is a 15 mins wait. They do not understand what we do and the importance of our role in healthcare, yet they do not want to know either. They think we are giving them a hard time intentionally by making them wait 15 more minutes after perhaps 30 mins wait at the surgery.

These misbeliefs and misunderstandings have been there for years yet RPS and GPhC are too incompetent to promote our profession.  The multiples are also to be blamed for making pharmacies look like a click and collect service like argos, and spoiling ridiculous patients by giving them £20 voucher whenever there is a complaint and pharmacy staff isn't even at fault. 

Okantan Ayeh, Student

Congrats! No down votes :)

nader Siabi, Community pharmacist

We have to do the right thing and inundate the OFCOM with our complaint about the programme and make it number one, most complaint programme ever. 

Then we need to stop whinging and do post-graduate clinical course to upskill our knowledge so that we don't get the nonsense again. There were all idiots discussing a subject that they had no clue. I can only think, they are spoilt rats that never used public health services and always relied on private healthcare.  I bet their prescriptions are delivered by on-line pharmacy!!!

In North East London LPC area where I lead workforce developement, more than 120 pharmacists undergoing PG courses at higher education institutions. Perhaps everyone should do the same.  

Greatly Pedantic and Highly Clueless, Senior Management

Shame Sam Delaney doesn't have anything to say about what the public thinks about journalists. Clearly found a new job after his "comedy show" the Newsthing was discountinued by RT (Russia Today).

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

It is the role of the RPS to boost the reputation of this profession to the public. So far, they have not done a good job of promoting pharmacy to the public and now that this has happened, they jump to do damage control. Having said that, at least they reacted quickly to do the damage control. It is also incredible how many people have jumped in to try and take credit on social media saying their actions mobilised pharmacy response. Perhaps if we focused less on glory seeking and more on being united and having a plan to promote this profession, we would achieve something and not be in a damage control mode.

Fiona Wyborn, Community pharmacist

The programme makers are also ignorant- the flag across the screen cannot be blamed on the presenters it is the shows researchers/producers- Is it right for the Chemist , apology states item this week will discuss" what to expect at the chemist"- I have a degree in Pharmacy, have the protected title pharmacist and work in a pharmacy!

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

We are upset, but it is the failure of the profession to enlighten the public. There is a similar article in the Times today.I suspect majority of the public is not aware of what we do daily

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree, I would challenge anyone to find a member of the public who can tell confidently what happens with the journey of a prescription.
It just comes.

Seal Patel, Community pharmacist

I don't see whats wrong in someone pointing out what the general public perceived image of what we as pharmacists are. We have a weak governing body who will simply ask for an apology and close the issues. Its the typical response from a governing body which is pathetic and not fit for purpose.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Just when the TV Advert directing patients with minor ailments to visit the Pharmacy, ITV seems to think otherwise. These numbnuts are paid hefty dosh to make such irresponsible comments on National TV, which seems to complete BS the idea of NHS and DoH in promoting CP. These people should not only be banned but also tried in the courts for misleading general public.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I do believe these individuals would benefit from learning about what happens in Pharmacy. I think the general feeling I get from public is that they have no idea what happens in the dispensary.

Paul Guest, Manager

GPhC commissioned survey shows that trust in pharmacy is high (

The survey of over 2,000 adults from across Britain found that 97 per cent of people either "generally trusted" or "completely trusted" pharmacists, and 87 per cent were either satisfied or very satisfied with the service they receive from pharmacists. (vetfutures, 2015)

Pharmacists were trusted “a great deal” or “quite a lot” by 95 per cent of over 1,700 UK respondents to the survey, second only to fire-fighters (98 per cent) and matching the trust in airline pilots and nurses. (Readers Digest, 2009)


Leon The Apothecary, Student

Although we should also consider the limited sample size and bias one would expect in such a survey. I, of course, refer you to the infamous study that proves that you don't need a parachute to survive jumping out of a plane.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I believe the damage and defamation of the profession has already been done.

Medicine Master, Primary care pharmacist

There we have it a true reflection on the image of CP, despite all the money and time spent on Ask a pharmacist

Community Pharmacists and their regulatory bodies only have themselves to blame. CP can influence patients locally - they have no power to direct the National Health Strategy.

CP is nonexistent at the local and national government levels and also in the NHS CP has no impact at all.

Why should anybody value a profession that is freely accessible and gives out free advice to anyone?

There is no collective responsibility by CP- they are all too busy in a competitive race to the bottom with each other.


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