It’s been less than a week since ITV’s This Morning breakfast show aired disparaging comments about the pharmacy profession and I’m still reeling.
It was maddening to hear journalist Sam Delaney refer to us as “pretend doctors” on daytime TV, while Vanessa Feltz painted a misleading picture of pharmacists “ambushing” patients and calling them “fat” in the middle of a crowded pharmacy.
It’s no wonder pharmacists have been left feeling frustrated and undervalued. The MPharm wasn’t an easy degree by any stretch. Five years of hard grafting, so we could come out of the other side as highly skilled professionals, equipped to provide patients with the best clinical care.
But perhaps something positive can come out of this. Perhaps we can take this opportunity to promote the role of pharmacists and address these stubborn misconceptions about what we really do.
Every pharmacist I know has spotted a severe drug interaction or prevented a serious overdose during their career. Just last week, I spoke to a locum pharmacist who spotted a once-daily prescription for methotrexate, and intervened, preventing a potentially fatal overdose. This was just one story in an endless list of examples, where without a pharmacist intervention the patient would have been at risk of severe harm.
There is clearly more to do to raise public awareness of pharmacists' training and expertise. We have been wrongly perceived as “glorified shop keepers”, when in actual fact there are many strings to the pharmacy bow that the general public may not even be aware of. Even as a profession, it’s easy to forget just how diverse we are. You only have to look at our advisory board – nine pharmacists, all working in completely different walks of pharmacy and all highly qualified in their areas.
Community pharmacists are aptly placed to identify patients who may benefit from healthy living advice, and numerous studies have shown that early intervention is key in disease prevention. Promoting awareness of this much sought-after service – given the long waiting-times to see a GP and restricted 10-minute appointments – is something we should be proud to shout about. We need to show the general public that they have trained and qualified professionals at their fingertips, and that we don’t just – in the words of This Morning host Eamonn Holmes – “shift products from the shelves”.
The uproar about the This Morning segment has already led to a #whatwedoinpharmacy Twitter campaign, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has been invited on this week to counter-balance the initial comments. Hopefully this is the start of a change in the perception of the role of pharmacists, and we can finally put these misconceptions of pharmacists and their clinical skills to bed once and for all.