What is a community pharmacy and what happens here?
The pharmacy team
When you visit your local pharmacy, you may notice that there are a number of people working there. Each person has a different role but all share the same goal – to ensure you stay healthy and get the best possible medicines experience.
Pharmacists study at university for four years and then have a year ‘in practice’ before qualifying. They are the experts in the use of medicines for the treatment of disease. For services like allergy screening, pharmacists undergo additional approved training. Pharmacists keep their knowledge up to date during their career with compulsory continuing professional development.
Pharmacy support staff
Pharmacy support staff are often the first people you see in a pharmacy and they work under the direct supervision of the pharmacist.
Members of the pharmacy support staff team include:
Medicines counter assistant
Medicines Counter Assistants help to support the pharmacist in the delivery of services and the selling of medicines.
- Giving advice on self-limiting illnesses such as colds and coughs
- Giving healthy lifestyle support such as highlighting any public campaigns
- Some medicine counter assistants will also help out with other services such as simple health checks, following appropriate training and accreditation.
Dispenser and dispensing assistants
Dispensers help the pharmacist to dispense prescriptions and manage dispensary stock. They also fulfill the roles of a Medicines Counter Assistant when required. To do the job, dispensers have to undergo training.
Pharmacy technicians help the pharmacy in dispensing prescriptions and managing the dispensary. Like Dispensers and Medicines Counter Assistants they can also help with other services if they have training. Pharmacy Technicians are registered professionals.
Accredited checking technician
Accredited checking technicians check the accuracy of dispensed items that have been assembled by another person.
Frequently asked questions about the pharmacy team:
Is it only the pharmacist who has training in medicines?
Pharmacy staff are required to undertake approved training to work in a pharmacy. They work under the direct supervision of a pharmacist.
How long does a pharmacist have to train for?
Pharmacists study at university for four years and then have a year ‘in practice’ before qualifying. They are the experts in the use of medicines for the treatment of disease. For services like allergy screening, pharmacists undergo additional approved training.
What type of questions can you ask your pharmacy team?
Your pharmacy team can help to answer questions about your medicines and wellbeing. Here are some questions you might never have thought to ask your pharmacy team.
- Can you tell me about reducing my risk of a heart attack or stroke?
- I have difficulties controlling my bladder. Can you help?
- I am worried about cancer. Should I go to my GP?
- I would like to talk with someone about my sexual health.
- Can I talk to someone in private, so we can’t be overheard?
- I am taking medicines for a long term medical condition. Please can we talk about how they work and possible side effects?
- I am a smoker. Can you help me give up?
- Is there a local self help group for people with my condition?
Why do pharmacy staff ask so many questions?
The answer is simple: because medicines can harm as well as heal. Questions like ‘have you taken the medicine before’ or ‘what are your symptoms’ may seem obvious to you, but pharmacy staff rely on the answers to make sure that the medicine they supply is suitable and safe. Hundreds of thousands of people each year are admitted to hospital due to adverse drug reactions and many more would be harmed without the questioning of pharmacy staff.