Pork pies on the box

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Pork pies on the box

Withering is horrified at what the Prime Minister has been saying about pharmacy spending ...

Am I naïve in hoping that politicians might occasionally tell the truth? I’m not talking about any old politician – I’m talking about the Prime Minister. I have just watched the unedifying spectacle of David Cameron on parliamentlive.tv misinforming Parliament over the government’s record concerning community pharmacy. I expected spin, a down-playing of the figures, but blatant misrepresentation?

During PMQs, Mr Cameron stated that, over the past five years, there had been “a massive increase in pharmacy spending.” His exact words, unedited: a massive increase. The camera panned to Jeremy Hunt, who could be seen nodding sagely in agreement. A massive increase?

I must have spent the past five years on another planet in an induced coma. Jeremy Hunt, as Secretary of State for Health, must have been aware that what Cameron was telling the house was incorrect, but did he take the opportunity to lean over and tug the sleeve of his right honourable friend’s finely-tailored suit and whisper “actually prime minister, that’s not strictly correct”? I’m afraid not.

MPs are not supposed to tell porkies in Parliament (it’s considered to be an enormous faux pas) so the language that is used when MPs err from the path of accuracy includes phrases like “incorrectly briefed by officials”, and so on. This was the emollient tone taken by NPA chair Ian Strachan, who has written to Mr Cameron to try to put him back on the straight and narrow. In his letter he says that the PM has “apparently been misinformed about the level of investment in community pharmacy in recent years.” That’s putting it very mildly. Well, I suppose that the PM is a powerful person and it doesn’t do to get on his wrong side, but PLEASE!

Mr Cameron had Hunt sitting next to him and Hunt could have put him right in an instant. Apparently misinformed? Really? The problem is that public opinion will be shaped by professional ‘parliament watchers’ who will be blissfully unaware that an important item of misinformation has just been seeded into the on-going circus that the NHS has become.

The story will be something like: there’s no need to feel sorry for pharmacists; over the past five years, when other sectors in the NHS have had to put up with just a 1 per cent increase in pay, pharmacists have had a “massive increase.” Why not just call us a bunch of whining malingerers and be done with it?

Isn’t it obvious that we are simply the next target as this government continues its unstated policy to degrade the NHS? And when we try to explain, people will think we are exaggerating because at the back of their minds will be the “massive increase” we’ve enjoyed over the past five years.

Withering is the pen name of a practising independent community pharmacist. Withering’s views are not necessarily those of ICP

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