Pharmacist

Pharmacists are the country’s main experts in medicines and pharmacy is one of the fastest growing areas of healthcare.

Pharmacists share a common commitment to improving people’s lives through medicines and care and making a real contribution to the nation’s health. Career opportunities are developing fast and pharmacists today can be found in many different settings including high street pharmacies, hospital wards, GPs’ surgeries, walk-in centres, industry and universities.

Medicines are the most common treatments offered to NHS patients. A pharmacist is an expert in medicines and their use. Their knowledge of medicines and the effect they have on the human body is critical for the successful management of every type of medical condition.

Responsibilities:

  • advise other healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses, on how to choose medicines and use them correctly
  • ensure that new medicines are safe to use with other medication and advise on dosage and most appropriate form of medication
  • make sure that patients use their medicines safely and provide information to patients on how get the maximum benefit from the medicines they are prescribed
  • advise on the most effective treatments for a particular condition including those for sale without prescription
  • help patients manage long term conditions
  • recommend changes to prescriptions and give advice on prescribing and provide information about potential side effects
  • monitor the effects of treatment to ensure that it is safe and effective
  • provide enhanced services aimed at improving health outcomes or minimising risks of infection

Pharmacists work as part of healthcare teams in hospitals or community pharmacies. Community pharmacists are based in health centres or pharmacies but they may spend time visiting patients at home or in residential homes.

Pharmacists may also supervise pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants in purchasing, over-the-counter sales or dispensing medicines.

Entry requirements:

To practise as a pharmacist, you have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). To register, you need to study for an accredited Masters degree in pharmacy (MPharm). Universities across the UK offer the course, which lasts four years, full time. To get onto a Master’s course in pharmacy you need three A-B grade A-levels in chemistry and biology, maths or physics along with five GCSEs (grades A-C), including English language, maths and at least one science.

After university, to become a fully qualified pharmacist you’ll need to:

  • work for a year under supervision in a community or hospital pharmacy
  • pass a registration exam 

Pharmacists need to be:

  • accurate and methodical
  • able to understand and apply the law
  • responsible
  • interested in people’s health
  • willing to supervise others
  • able to work with all types of people
  • able to explain clearly to members of the public
  • excellent communication skills including listening
  • good customer skills
  • science skills

Training and development

Once qualified, many pharmacists join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). Registered pharmacists have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with annual continuing professional development (CPD).

Experienced pharmacists can undertake additional training and qualifications to allow them to prescribe medicines.