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Ofcom not pursuing complaints over ITV ‘pretend doctor’ comments

Ofcom: ITV “pretend doctors” comments were “within the likely expectations of viewers”
Ofcom: ITV “pretend doctors” comments were “within the likely expectations of viewers”

There will be no investigation into comments about pharmacists being “pretend doctors” made on ITV’s This Morning in January, Ofcom has told C+D.

Despite the programme receiving 3,493 complaints, Ofcom has said the content was “within the likely expectations of viewers of this programme”, and it will therefore not be investigating the matter further.

The television standards regulator said that while it understands that “some viewers were offended”, it “took into account that the presenter and another guest challenged the negative opinions during the discussion”.

Last month (January 17) ITV faced backlash over comments made by journalist Sam Delaney during a This Morning debate about whether or not pharmacists should speak to patients about obesity.

Mr Delaney said “we think they’re pretend doctors a lot of the time” in reference to pharmacists, while guest Vanessa Feltz argued that patients “don’t want to be ambushed by some pharmacist”.

The comments prompted a strong reaction from the sector on social media, while ITV subsequently aired a segment showcasing the different services pharmacies provide in response to the backlash. C+D’s clinical editor Naimah Callachand weighed in on whether anything positive could come from the debacle.


The comments prompted the twitter hashtag “#whatwedoinpharmacy”, set up by pharmacist Jonathan Laird to combat negative public perceptions of pharmacists.

The hashtag represented a “collective stance by the pharmacy sector to raise awareness of our role in healthcare”, Laura Buckley, a locum pharmacist based in Hull, told C+D today (Feburary 28).

“It's fantastic to see the sector pulling together to defend ourselves against a slur by individuals on national TV,” she said.

Ms Buckley highlighted the need for positive media exposure to encourage patients to make full use of pharmacy services.

NPA: We complained to Ofcom

Comments made on This Morning were “ill-informed” and “may have discouraged people from accessing the valuable support available in pharmacies”, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) head of communications Stephen Fishwick said.

The NPA was “among those who complained” about the remarks, although Mr Fishwick said the public has a “generally positive view of community pharmacies”.

However, there is “still lots more that needs to be done to raise awareness of what [pharmacies] do”, he added.

RPS: Comments were “extremely disappointing and concerning”

Remarks made on the programme were “extremely disappointing and concerning”, Royal Pharmaceutical Society head of corporate communications Neal Patel told C+D today (February 28).

The “strength of feeling” was demonstrated by the number of complainants to Ofcom, he added.

“We were pleased after we contacted ITV that This Morning featured pharmacy on their show on January 23, highlighting the value of community pharmacists and the important role they play in protecting and advising people on their health,” Mr Patel added.

What do you make of Ofcom's decision?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Here we are, barely 6 weeks later and who is it dealing with the public - Your friendly neighbourhood 'pretend doctor' - because all the 'real' GPs have bogged off behind locked doors and told the public to 'see your pharmacist'. I do hope the nitwits involved in the original broadcast have had cause to make use of their pharmacy and it has made them change their tune - shame that we'll never know


Greatly Pedantic and Highly Clueless, Senior Management

Sounds like Ofcom are a pretty clueless regulator. I don't have to rack my pretend doctor's brain to think of another regulator that falls into this category. 

P T, Community pharmacist

Our American counterparts earn on average over $120,000 a year and we barely make £40,000, our job is considered redundant by the public, we're always at the back of the line for nhs funding and I'm sure most of us work our backsides off, not only as healthcare professionals but as team leaders. The profession is a joke in this country in my opinion and I can see why this man sees us as pretend doctors. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I would add to that and say the adaption of provision and improvement in capabilities of other professionals suggest that pharmacists are being replaced by other professions.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

This is true. You should join the industry like me, where I'm earning 2.5x more than I was earning in community pharmacy or as an IP.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

“within the likely expectations of viewers of this programme”. This means the public generally feel this way. Its like complaining to ofcom and being told off for doing the right thing. Ridiculous 

Yo Palumeri, Community pharmacist

Pretend Doctors- look at what is happening to the contract

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