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Pharmacists backlash against ‘key workers’ list

Graham Stretch: "Disappointing" pharmacists were not explicitly named
Graham Stretch: "Disappointing" pharmacists were not explicitly named

Pharmacists have voiced their disappointment on social media that a list of “key workers” published by the Department for Education failed to mention the profession directly.

The list was published today (March 20) and recognises professionals whose work is considered “critical to the COVID-19 response” and whose children “will be prioritised for education provision” while schools are closed.

This comes as the government announced earlier this week that schools will close from Monday (March 23) but that they will need to provide for “children who are vulnerable” or whose parents’ work is crucial during the pandemic.

However, while the list of professions considered vital to responding to COVID-19 specifically mentions “doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers [and] care workers”, it does not directly refer to pharmacists or their teams. Instead, it mentions “other frontline health and social care staff… working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson confirmed to C+D today that “other frontline health and social care staff” does incorporate pharmacy teams. “Pharmacists and staff fall under this definition as key workers”, the spokesperson said.

“Wider definition”

This definition was met with disappointment by some pharmacists, who shared their views on Twitter.

Pharmaceutical Service Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO Simon Dukes said the government “settled on [this] wider definition” to refer to all community pharmacy workers and “pharmacy drivers, staff in wholesalers, distributers”.

The government’s definition “does, however, demonstrate the value of the dispensing and supply of medicines at a time of [a] national health crisis – something that has arguably been undervalued by governments in the past – and that can only be a good thing for our sector”, Mr Dukes added.

The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK president Liz Fidler said community pharmacy staff does have a crucial role to play in coping with COVID-19 and that she felt this would be emphasised more in the future

Letter to headteachers

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Sandra Gidley wrote an open letter today to headteachers on the role of pharmacy staff as “key workers” during the pandemic.

In the letter, Ms Gidley said the list of so-called key workers “includes children of parents who work in health and social care, which covers pharmacists and their support teams”.

The organisation added in a tweet that NHS England has agreed to include pharmacists in future communications “about key workers” by the end of today.

Due to COVID-19, workers across UK pharmacy are under great pressure right now. If you would like to find out how you can help, take a look at current vacancies in and around your location at All levels of pharmacy professionals are needed.

What did you make of the list?

stewart blakey, Community pharmacist

It is time for Constructive Actions -STRIKE- Then negotiate. Long time coming. 

H Saw, Community pharmacist

Are "pharmacists" really not worth mentioning at all? It feels like this profession is invisible in NHS's eye, even at this time when surgery is "semi-lockdowned" but we remain open to patients. What about those hospital pharmacists who work along doctors and nurses as part of clinical team? They are not really a distributor, are they?

Samson Famojuro, Locum pharmacist

If the brave work we are doing on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis does not warrant a decent mention in DOH communications,we would forever wait for recognition.I'm sorry but for so long so we have whimpered, hidden behind the scenes, and almost 'apologised' perpetually for our existence. We are standing firm on the frontlines-risking our health while Gp surgeries close and implement 'lockdowns', and you don't feel we deserve explicit, specific, mention? How come the Gps and Nurses get a mention? If everywhere can shut, but Pharmacies and Supermarkets are been asked to stay open to ensure food and medicine supply-who is going to ensure safe supply of medicines? We are! It's about how you value yourself, and comments by Simon Dukes asking us to be 'grateful' for the government 's acknowledgment of our 'dispensing and supply role' in this time of national crisis is frankly insulting. How long have we been saying we add so much more value than just 'dispensing and supply'?-and even that role could not warrant specific mention. Pharmacists are angry, and rightly so. Thumbs up to Sandra Gidley for demanding Pharmacists get specific mention-we deserve nothing less. Let's hope the Department of Health and Social Care listens.

O J, Community pharmacist

We are being led by Donkeys, no one has got it in them to speak up. Just this morning I saw a pharmacy open, with pharmacist ( in gloves, mask and apron) walking out and handing medicine to a customer in the car park. Kudos to his team and him. Not hiding behind closed door.

Samson Famojuro, Locum pharmacist

Just read Graham Philips Article on The Pharmacist website-'No crumbs from the rich man's table -we need more money for more work'.Brilliant article that summarises the Pharmacy conundrum in a nutshell. I recommend it-have a read. The non-recognition of Pharmacists and the hard work they do is nothing new. The Nhs-as far as Pharmacy goes- has always wanted to eat its cake and have it. Pharmacists have been taking the 'bullet' for the NHS for so long -without little or no recognition.

O J, Community pharmacist

Any statement from Keith Ridge and co. on closing 3000 pharmacies, automate everything and claim an OBE for that? Let's close 3000 pharmacies, shall we ? and see what happens???

Keithyyy Ridge where are youuuuu.
I hope this situation changes your perceptive of pursuing government's agenda of closing down pharmacies and you respectfully hand in your resignation.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

I don't understand the surprise here. The public and authorities see community Pharmacists as nothing but suppliers or medicine shopkeepers. You need to get a reality check if you're asking for more.

Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Do you not feel the need to change this. As time goes on and as our profession adapts is there no need to be proud and speak up to what you are

Arrey TATAW, Community pharmacist

All you have written is so take on this respect is all about how the majority in the profession carry themselves and projecting their worth. All in the alignment of how we conduct our self and the environment we work in.

The profession itself does not respect the professionals. Have you ever wondered how most pharmacists work in very filthy pharmacies? A lot of pharmacy are filthy but as well learned professionals we in most cases locum to work and deliver medication in such an environment.

I have barely entered a doctors office to find it filthy but most pharmacists open consultation to patients in filthy rooms. If you have a clean pharmacy be experience what I am saying locums can tell more on this...when you locum you ten to visit lots of places.

Still the professional body we respect still pass these shops on inspection. Pharmacy owners do not budget for cleaning which is a huge shame.

As pharmacists, we need to stand united to combat this practice first from within before going out to seek recognition at a larger scale. Pharmacy owners should start respecting us, the board should put hygiene as a key inspection point and pharmacist to say no opening doors of filthy pharmacy to the public. Yes! Until then we might not be able to gain respect from outside. We will always be at the bottom of the list because we don't know how indispensable we are in the medical chain. We need a stronger United pharmacists voice. With love and light, I speak

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

Let's just call sick (if you are genuinely ill or self isolating as per guidance) and let pharmacies closed. Perhaps people will then start to see our values once they have lost access to their meds.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

We aren't on the list specifically but we are sent a barrage of emails to 'support' the system. We were left out for a reason. They never want to give us any type of importance in case they need to pay us for that importance. We are not whining like some of you are saying, it's the truth! 

Ebers Papyrus, Pharmaceutical Adviser

The dismal reality is NHS England have since 2014 developed a complete disdain towards our efforts and worth. They view supply as a trivial, menial task, clearly they no little of the complexity of the task. We have been treated with utter contempt by conductor Stevens and then ably assisted by his abject orchestra of Ridge & Warner.

Government correctly preach about distance, that social contact outside the home must be avoided. GP surgeries won’t allow patients in, the vast majority of consultations are done over the phone. 

The GPs then send biblical quantities of prescriptions our way remotely plus referrals. Of course we do our best and are utterly committed to our communities. The reality is that we have patients packed in like sardines as there is no alternative structure in place. Yes they require vital over the counter supplies and sundries but this is an avoidable risk to them and us and should be dealt with urgently. The same applies to supermarkets, the environment isn’t protecting the customers or staff. 

Yes we want to assist but we need strict guidance, support and structure. If we have patients in we need adequate protection which will also protect vulnerable patients. We don’t need a small box of out of date face masks. Installation of screens or a locked door and doorbell assist is a start and clearly a funded method of delivery to patients should already have been sorted. We don’t need we’re still in discussions with DH. Get on with it, provide leadership or vital pharmacies will not be providing safe and effective care to patients. Their teams also will inevitably succumb to the situation. A situation which could have been avoided.

Matthew Edwards, Community pharmacist

Oh for pity's sake.  Grow up as I am sure there were others not specifically mentioned.  Would it not be better for us all to pull together in these strained times and actually unify as a profession. But no we seem incapable of it.  Excessive profiteering by contractors and locums cancelling dates so their "friends" can demand higher rates just show how many in the profession want to act selfishly and not even give a thought to the population we are supposed to serve.


Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'm with Matthew here. There were plenty of professions and key workers mentioned there and not specifically by name that does just as an important job during this crisis. Honestly, complaining about trivialities undermines the profession more than any "fake doctor" comment, in my humble opinion.

Paul Mayberry, Community pharmacist

Yep, let's pull together!


Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Unfortunately the position we are in is that there is very little respect for those in the pharmacy profession.

In fact, my belief is the general public see us as a supply trade rather than professional career. We are simply pill packers and pushers listening to doctors orders.

There is also very little public health information given about our roles regardless of all the "clinical roles" and referral services the govn. want us to take on board to take the pressure of the NHS. In fact they want us to do it for little to no reimbursement which in of itself clearly signifies the little respect we get from our own health sector.

There are no upper management bodies or professional bodies who even bat an eye lid to improve our social status or professional roles as healthcare experts.

If only all of us could come together to prove our worth. As time goes on, and this is not addressed, our profession will only be further tarnished and destroyed and soon our jobs may be redundant at the hands of speedy service internet pharmacies.

Michael Mustoe, Community pharmacist

Why oh why are there so many whining people in our profession
What a shame
Why can't the positives be focused on
We are NHS workers, and are therefore covered by the descriptive. Get a life, and behave like grown ups, not spoilt little kids

Tim Harrington, Manager

 Understand people feel hurt, but everybody is in panic mode, please be respectful of the situation, communities know the good work pharmacists do, be humble and pull together , Tim H




Vanessa Hoyle, Community pharmacist

I think dogsbody!! Probably fits ! Us Pharmacists seem to do more and more with less recognition! 

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Well they get PAID more and more for the more and more they do.

Caroline Burge, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Don't be disheartened, or insulted, many Healthcare and NHS Supply Chain contractors aren't named, but we all know who we are. We all need to stick together as an industry and suppliers of services are here to help people in need.

Amjad Khan, Senior Management

Like I don't think a podiatrist would be too insulted if their name wasn't on that list.

Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Different since no podiatrist is on the primary care line. Yes they are healthcare but they aren't in firing line as we are. We need to be given the respect we duly deserve and should be listed by profession.

Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Don't you remember the Athletes' foot pandemic of 1998?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

However, this article has nothing to do with respect. It is about wanting recognition. Be humble.

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