An open letter to the national media about an MP practicing as a pharmacist

PDA responds to media attack on pharmacist and member of parliament, Taiwo Owatemi.

Mon 21st June 2021 The PDA

Many PDA members may have seen recent articles in various national media outlets attacking pharmacist and MP for Coventry North West, Taiwo Owatemi. This included a blog on the right-wing Guido Fawkes website which stated “SERVING LABOUR MP ADMITS TO SELLING DRUGS”. Though it explained in the short article that she was a pharmacist, this was shared by several Social Media users who seemed to take the headline at face value and repeated the allegation that crimes were being committed.

The blog also used imagery that looked like the opening credits of the TV show “Breaking Bad” to spell out “MP’s side hustle” and other social media users expressed outrage and questioned if such a headline and image would have been used if Ms Owatemi had a different ethnicity.

The story was also reported in some print media which appeared to take lines that working as a pharmacist while an MP was about earning extra money on top of an MP salary, with the Mail on Sunday saying: “Every little helps – or so it seems for Labour MP Taiwo Owatemi, who says she’ll supplement her £82,000 salary with shifts as a pharmacist at Tescoor that working shifts as a community pharmacist was the“…equivalent of a Saturday job in a supermarket”, according to the Times.

In response the PDA has written the following open letter which we also hope some of those media organisations may publish.

Sirs

We are the largest pharmacist membership organisation in the UK and have noticed a series of articles in various publications criticising Taiwo Owatemi MP after she properly declared that she is working some shifts in community pharmacy. The tone of some of these articles has demonstrated what appears to be a lack of knowledge of our profession and what we do.

Pharmacists are a healthcare profession of 61,000 scientists working across all parts of the UK health sector, including hospitals, GP practice and Community Pharmacy. Community pharmacies, which some of your readers may still refer to as “the chemists”, are the most accessible access point of the entire NHS, where even those not yet registered with a GP can speak directly to a health professional without an appointment and access NHS services.

We know from our peer organisations worldwide that in every national lockdown access to community pharmacies has been at the core of keeping societies operating while tackling this pandemic, by remaining open to patients.  Community pharmacies are often in small premises where employees have difficulties in socially distancing, but they have been a front line in the nation’s response, on many occasions providing patients with the medicines they need to stay alive.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, in a pattern also seen amongst other front line healthcare professions eager to serve the public, several community pharmacists have died during this pandemic from Covid-19.

There are multiple examples of doctors that become MPs continuing to practice, including some who have served in cabinet, and quite rightly as health professionals they will also have a requirement to keep their practice current.  However, we cannot recall any of those MPs being criticised for doing so in any form, let alone in the way some of the attacks on Ms Owatemi have been phrased.  That an MP should continue to practice and care for patients in the middle of a pandemic should be praised, not condemned.

Medicines are the second largest expenditure in the NHS budget (after employees) and pharmacists are the experts in their management.  It is therefore also an asset to have a member of the Health & Social Care select committee and All Party Parliamentary Group on pharmacy as a practicing pharmacist.  MPs have been criticised in the past for not having “proper jobs”, but here is one doing a vital job for patients and our health service.

We ask that in the interest of reporting balance that you publish this response.

Yours sincerely

 

Mark Koziol

Chairman, Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA)

 

 

 

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

Cookie Use

This website uses cookies to help us provide the best user experience. If you continue browsing you are giving your consent to our use of cookies.

General Guidance Resources Surveys PDA Campaigns Regulations Locums Indemnity Arrangements Pre-Regs & Students FAQs Coronavirus (COVID-19)