Since becoming news editor at pharmacy B2B Chemist and Druggist in September 2010, Zoe Smeaton (magazine, 2007) has worked on various investigative journalism campaigns.
She launched the Fight for Fairness campaign, which highlighted a faulty NHS payment system, out of concern for Chemist and Druggist readers who she felt were being cheated out of money.
The six month investigation revealed more than £5m in government payment errors and the lengths being taken by an NHS agency to cover up the mistakes by altering its accuracy figures.
Smeaton included stories from pharmacists in her work by connecting with them on Twitter. Her discoveries resulted in the government paying £20m in compensation to the industry.
She said: “It was really important that we did engage with readers. When we got some big bits of data back from the government agency that we didn’t necessarily understand we put that out to readers and they explained it to us.”
Another investigation on medicine shortages received similar support from readers, who often had patients waiting days for life-saving medicines. Smeaton’s Freedom of Information requests exposed the Department of Health’s lack of commitment to resolving the problem and led to a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.
“This is a problem that affects our readers because they’re having to spend hours and hours trying to find the medicines, but also the knock-on effect is that it’s hitting patients who are having to wait for their medicines,” commented Smeaton.
“One pharmacist reported that a patient had died while they were waiting for their medicine,” she added.
The story was picked up by national newspapers and Smeaton was interviewed by ITV Wales and BBC Radio 4.
Smeaton was shortlisted for Private Eye’s Paul Foot Award and won the New Section Editor of the Year Award at the PTC New Talent Awards, both in February 2012. But how did she feel when she found out she had been nominated for the XCity Award 2012?
“I felt really proud when I got the email through. City is the place I credit with a lot of my success and certainly without it I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am now.”