Trade for prosperity

We look at the role of community pharmacists and their teams and how the delivery of excellent care is a team effort. Plus, we have tips about how to communicate effectively with your pharmacy team

Community pharmacists are highly qualified health care professionals who can provide clinical advice, conveniently, as part of your integrated local NHS team. Every pharmacist trains for five years in the use of medicines, studying at university for four years and then spending a year ‘in practice’ before qualifying. 

They are experts in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice. As regulated health care professionals, pharmacists must continue to develop their professional skills throughout their career. 

On a day-to-day basis, community pharmacists have many duties that include: clinical scrutiny of prescriptions; overseeing safe dispensing; giving advice about medicines and treatments to patients; providing public health information to customers; pointing customers to other health and social care services, self-care organisations or information; assessment and treatment of minor ailments; professional oversight of the sale of over-the-counter medicines; and liaison with other healthcare professionals.

Support team 

Pharmacists are supported by a team of trained staff working under their direct supervision. They include: 

Pharmacy technicians – skilled members of the pharmacy team who prepare, dispense, supply and issue a wide range of medicines to patients. 

Accredited checking technicians (ACT) – staff who have received training to undertake accuracy checks of dispensed medicines. The pharmacist will carry out a clinical check of the prescription during the dispensing process but working with an ACT means the pharmacist usually does not need to undertake the final accuracy check. 

Dispensing assistants – they support the pharmacist in dispensing prescriptions and the management of dispensary stock. 

Medicines counter assistants – they provide a wide range of functions to support the rest of the team. They undertake the prescription reception process and provide basic healthy lifestyle support among other duties. 

Customers can ask to talk to a Healthy Living Champion. These are members of the pharmacy team who are specially trained to provide health and wellbeing advice. Their training helps them communicate effectively and to understand the impact of behaviour change such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. Healthy Living Champions can also guide customers to other community services that will help them to adopt healthier lifestyles.

The Responsible Pharmacist

The owner of the pharmacy must appoint a Responsible Pharmacist whose role is to secure the safe and effective running of the registered pharmacy when it is operational. Displayed at the pharmacy is a notice that gives the details of the Responsible Pharmacist.

It’s good to talk (with your pharmacy team)

Here are tips about how to communicate effectively with your pharmacy team – and to be extra safe with your medicines: 

Feel free to ask your pharmacist anything at all about your medicines, health and wellbeing – if it’s important to you, it’ll be important to them. To be safer, it is better to reveal too much information than not enough, so bring up issues even if your doctor or pharmacist hasn’t asked about them. 

Check with your doctor or pharmacist anything that is unclear about the explanations or advice they have given you; one way is to repeat what you think the pharmacist means in your own words and ask “Is this correct”? If you are still uncertain about anything when you get home, call to talk to the pharmacist or visit the pharmacy again.

Please say if you think the medicines you have been supplied with, or the advice and instructions that have come with them, are not right for you. The doctor or pharmacist will not be offended and should welcome the opportunity to reassure you, clarify information or discuss alternatives. 

If you are in the pharmacy to be treated for a minor ailment, be clear about your symptoms – what exactly are they, how long have you had them, do they affect your daily activities? Answer any questions asked by pharmacy staff accurately and fully so that the pharmacist can be sure that the medicine is safe for you and that your symptoms don’t indicate a serious underlying health problem.

A career in pharmacy? 

Working in pharmacy is by no means easy, but there can be huge personal satisfaction from working in a community pharmacy. Patients often build relationships with their pharmacy teams, valuing and trusting the advice and support given. Community pharmacists get to know whole families and support them through good and bad times. This human dimension is one reason why a career in the community pharmacy sector can be so fulfilling. 

A community pharmacist keeps people well, assesses their conditions and helps them get the best use of their medicines. It is a very responsible job and pharmacists tend to be respected members of their communities. Some pharmacists own their own businesses and enjoy the challenges of managing staff, stock and premises.

Interested in a career in pharmacy? Find out more details at




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