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NHS England must treat journalists with respect

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NHS England must treat journalists with respect

Press offices play a very important role in helping journalists establish the facts for a story, so I have a pressing question; does NHS England have a problem with journalists?

I ask this because I’ve been left feeling unsatisfied with the way they’ve handled some of my queries. In June last year, we asked them why the UK Commission on Pharmacy Professional Leadership which it had just launched had no representation at the time from community pharmacy.

Twenty-eight minutes later came the reply from its press office. “As this is UK-wide and involves all four nations, you would be best to contact DHSC.” So, we did. The DHSC told us to go back to NHSE who eventually responded to our question. Occasionally when we approach them for comment, they bounce us to the DHSC but this was particularly irritating. Why didn’t NHSE just answer our question in the first place?

Then recently, we contacted them for their response to comments by Rowlands Pharmacy superintendent pharmacist Stephen Thomas who told us during an interview that NHSE should carry out research to show what it is pharmacists actually do when working in GP surgeries and whether they provide value for money.

“Will take a look now but we’re incredibly busy today, is it possible to push back the deadline?” came their reply. We extended the deadline and offered to do a follow-up story if they still couldn’t hit our deadline and they came back. “I’ll work as quick as I can to sort this but appreciate we have a lot of other big items we need to get through ahead of the weekend.”

In fact, they appeared more concerned that we didn’t suggest in our story that they didn’t want to comment than answering our questions. And did they eventually comment? Nope.

Was NHSE being evasive or was it genuinely under the cosh? Who knows. They are frequently scrutinised and often face awkward questions from reporters, which is how it should be. Do they duck and dive in those circumstances? It's hard to tell. 

If they simply responded promptly and efficiently, we wouldn’t be speculating about this.

Neil Trainis is the editor of Independent Community Pharmacist.


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