The primary responsibility of a community pharmacist is to dispense prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines and formulations.
Community pharmacists are employed by retail pharmacies, supermarket chains, health centres, large healthcare facilities, GP clinics and surgeries. Many also choose to set up their own businesses, as a proprietor or in partnership with other community pharmacists.
Pharmacists don’t just dispense drugs; they dispense advice on how medicines work, conduct health checks, carry out procedures such as pregnancy tests, check cholesterol and blood pressure, and screen for diabetes. They are also on hand to treat minor ailments and maintain accurate records and registers for controlled drugs.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries are lower for community pharmacists working in standalone pharmacies and small retail chains.
Temporary or stand-in pharmacists are usually paid by the hour (£20-£25 per hour), with higher rates for working on weekends and holiday shifts.
Starting salaries across other facilities range between £21,000 and £45,000 for pharmacists with under ten years of experience. Professionals with more than ten years of experience can earn up to £70,000.
Self-employed community pharmacists earn significantly higher incomes once the business is established, especially if they offer ancillary and supplemental services such as health screenings and checks.
Working hours are irregular since pharmacies usually stay open beyond regular business hours, including weekends and holidays.
Employees in large retail chains may work in shifts with defined schedules and rotations. However, pharmacists working in remote and outlying areas with insufficient resources will need to work beyond their scheduled hours.
The job involves local travel in terms of visiting customers’ homes to deliver medicine, set up medical apparatus or conduct spot checks. Travel outside of your local community of practice is not very common.
Community pharmacist roles are open to candidates who complete a four year accredited degree in pharmacy, which grants the qualification of MPharm.
This is followed by one year of pre-registration learning under the supervision of an accredited pharmacist, completing several levels of competency assessments before appearing for the final examination conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).
Other requisite qualities include the ability to explain complex technical information regarding medicinal products, dosages and harmful side effects; a people-friendly attitude with high standards of personal ethics and integrity; a scrupulous and systematic approach to work; and high levels of self-motivation, confidence and patience.
Training & progression
There are no mandatory post-registration training requirements, as all initial training activity is completed in the pre-registration phase itself.
Exceptions to this are large pharmacy stores and chains, which conduct a comprehensive orientation programme for new recruits, covering areas of business other than pharmaceuticals.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a compulsory requirement for community pharmacists to maintain their registration.
After registration, the next step for a community pharmacist is usually a promotion into a managerial role.
Alternative options include specialising in a specific pharmacy discipline, such as clinical or practice pharmacy: the prescription of medicines for a variety of ailments without a registered physician’s intervention, except in the case of controlled drugs and medicines, which still require a doctor’s prescription.