Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

NHS commissioning and funding

Derogatory language about pharmacy is unnecessary

There is no need for Simon Stevens, the chief executive officer of NHS England, to use language that undermines the role of pharmacies in order to convince MPs that funding cuts to the sector are justified.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive officer of NHS England

Source: Vickie Flores / LNP / Rex / Shutterstock

Simon Stevens, the chief executive officer of NHS England, used language that undermines the role of pharmacies in order to convince MPs that funding cuts to the sector are justified

On 14 September 2016, Simon Stevens, chief executive officer of NHS England, appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee — which scrutinises the value for money of public spending and holds the government and its civil servants to account for the delivery of public services — to answer questions on NHS funding.

The topic of the community pharmacy funding cuts, announced by the Department of Health in December 2015 and expected to be confirmed imminently, was discussed by the committee. In response to a question from Labour MP Karin Smyth, Stevens said that community pharmacy is ”hugely valuable” in this country, but that we are spending around £2.8bn in order ”to dole out” £8.0bn worth of medicines.

Hearing that community pharmacy is hugely valuable under these circumstances might best be described as being damned with faint praise. Of course, Stevens did not mention any of community pharmacy’s other functions, such as public and sexual health initiatives, medicines optimisation and minor ailments schemes. Nor did he show any recognition of the social capital, or collective social value, of the network that pharmacies create in towns, communities and on high streets.

Community pharmacists provide comprehensive care for patients; they do not just pick up packets of tablets from a shelf, label them and “dole” them out to patients. For Stevens to make such remarks will do nothing to promote the standing of community pharmacists in the eyes of the public or, indeed, other healthcare professionals. Comments such as these could result in patients trusting pharmacists less – surely this is not his intention?

As far as The Pharmaceutical Journal understands, Stevens does not usually use derogatory language when talking about the hardworking healthcare professionals who care for patients in the UK. Therefore, it appears that his words were carefully calibrated to undermine the value of pharmacy in order to justify to his parliamentary audience why the funding cuts should be pushed ahead.

Given that the Conservative government pledged to support, not cut, the NHS in its manifesto, Stevens’s attempt to influence MPs in this way is unacceptable. He should let MPs look at the evidence for cuts to pharmacy funding (The Pharmaceutical Journal 2016;296:222), of which there is very little, and decide for themselves on the best course of action.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201826

Readers' comments (6)

  • Shame on ... from such a so called Dignitary !!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Similar comparisons could be levelled at civil servants? But we are Professionals and would not demean ourselves by such low tactics.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Oliver Carter

    He appears to be mistaking pharmacy for dispensing doctor practices........

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Rather than being derogatory, it sounds like a statement of fact, with very crucial elements left out? This is an opportunity for the RPS to correct him, with a carefully worded and emphatic letter to the Public Accounts Committee if this hasn't been done already.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Graham Phillips

    It was notable that Kevin Barron the MP who chairs the All Party Pharmacy Group when speaking on BBC The Daily Politics specifically called out Keith Ridge (Chief Pharmacist) as championing the cuts.

    Equally significant was the appearance of Simon Stevens and Jeremy Hunt in front of the Health Select Committee this week. Not a single mention of community pharmacy in terms of patients, the NHS, or in any other context. This is where our problems lie

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What was the question?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

Recommended from Pharmaceutical Press

Search an extensive range of the world’s most trusted resources

Powered by MedicinesComplete
  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Supplementary images

  • Simon Stevens, the chief executive officer of NHS England

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.