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Xrayser: Why I've no sympathy for minor ailment malingerers

"When you've got a stinking cold, it's not 'minor', it's a near-death experience"

Xrayser has little patience for office workers hunting for "flu-strength" drugs

It's been several weeks now since my last blog – owing to a back problem that, with a cruel twist of fate, means it’s OK standing up in the dispensary, but painful to sit down at a desk.

I'd like to say it was an injury at work and huge compensation is winging its way to me, but it's not my company’s fault. It's mine, and having a back problem changes your perspective.

I watch the delivery driver struggle to carry a pile of tote boxes without his barrow and shake my head knowingly. A dispenser fills a box with sip-feed cartons and hears me tutting at the weight of it. A counter assistant leans over to lift a large pack of monitored dosage system trays, and comes up to me saying: “Back straight and bend the knees!” I swear I hear the pharmacy technician mutter something about a pain in her backside, even though I haven't seen her lifting anything.

Of course, it still doesn't give me any more sympathy for the whinging malingerers who come in with their minor ailments. “I've had this cold for a couple of days now, but I can't get a doctor's appointment for a fortnight!” said a seemingly otherwise sensible grown-up.

“No need for a doctor,” I retort, “suck some of these pastilles and use this decongestant spray.”

“Haven't you got anything stronger? My nan had this and it lasted nearly three weeks!”

“Maybe,” I reply, “but your nan is in her 80s and survived her city being bombed in the war, while you are a middle-aged office worker with the sniffles. Still, here’s the bottle of over-priced guaifenesin syrup in fancy packaging that you've seen advertised on TV.”

The customer looks disappointed. “What about the one that says ‘flu-strength'?”

Sensing I'm about to cross a line, the dispensers fake a phone call to lure me back into the dispensary, where I start checking amoxicillin scripts for people who look perfectly healthy, and start a rant about antibiotic guardianship. I suspect every one of these customers had made “the call” – you know, the one where you phone in sick by shoving tissue up your nose to sound really congested and put on that sad, weak voice, as you describe a mild upper respiratory tract infection as if it's Ebola.

No wonder the NHS's campaigns to “see your pharmacist about minor ailments” are less than successful. When you've got a stinking cold, it's not "minor", it's a near-death experience – as if a rhinovirus should have been the finale of the Final Destination film series.

So instead, the NHS planners should learn from the successful influenza vaccination service and introduce a new "flu" service. “At death’s door?” the strapline could ask, “then visit your pharmacist for flu remedies. But whatever you do, make sure you look ill. Really, really ill.”


Ms B Wilson, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Is it not supposed to be an industry with some working together however it always appears as if no one wants to do this nowadays.

Instead of silo working (as in pig penns) and blame game and prosecution.

I need a reasonably good job for my level (at the moment), do not misinterpret me though the experience, skills and personality are excellent; but I am just about to step back into pharmacy and having kept tabs on the industry for the last five or so years, it seems a really professional good industry has had knocks.

So I will just have to remain positive as if my old employer offers me a job I am not sure I am going to refuse it as I did enjoy my time the first time round, but I am very aware, that healthcare, medication and expectation as well as the NHS (CCGs included) have changed and will continue to do so as do humans!


Sorry to say it but these days people like to have a sense of entitlement even if there is little need why should the field of Pharmacy be any different to the way they can be taken for granted.


For me if the partnership working happened some time ago then perhaps there would not have been this dilema as then everyone would be working more together, from more or less the same page and be more supportive.

However if you have a good team then surely this is what counts as the story showed re colleagues sort of coming to the rescue?!    As for customers what can I say as I have worked dealing with many and as I say expectation and being very spoilt and not thinking quite for self or thinking things through has also been an issue and some people do feel like they need a 'stroke' (Look up Transactional Analysis) to understand what I am getting at.


janet maynard, Community pharmacist

Missed you- hope your back improves! Notice that like most pharmacists you carried on working!

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Welcome back! We've missed you. There was a campaign to see your pharmacist when I was at college (back in the black and white days). It was that one with a picture of a nose with a dewdrop hanging off it. Didn't make a blind bit of difference that time and it won't now either. We aren't sympathetic enough!

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

Exact oppsite. You Pharmacists are too sympathetic which is why everyone takes you for a ride.

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'd refine my comment a bit to say that we are all too good at ACTING sympathetic. The truth only comes out when we retreat back to the dispensary and moan about it. You are absolutely right though (what is HAPPENING??? I keep agreeing with you!) that we do get taken for a ride. Our instinct either by brainwashing or by character is to help people out and to do the right thing as we see it, which tends to result in us getting shafted at every turn.

Andrew Weatherill, Community pharmacist

oh dear,you are in for a long winter if your sympathy levels are this low already

Not-So-Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

It's what keeps us going! If the patients could ever hear what we think we'd be toast.

Job of the week

Pharmacist Manager
Wrexham , North Wales
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