What an NHS pharmacy career involves: a brief guide

What an NHS pharmacy career involves: a brief guide

By Samantha Hlambelo

For a challenging career with diverse opportunities for personal and professional progression, the NHS could be the perfect choice.

Pharmacy graduates are often keen to work where there are chances to develop, receive significant job satisfaction and progress in the world of pharmacy. The NHS has been, and continues to be, an attractive avenue by which to meet these aspirations. There is a wide diversity of roles in the NHS and the possibilities for career development are enormous.

Hospital pharmacist roles

Pharmacy services are delivered in hospitals through teams working in the dispensary, procurement and distribution, clinical trials, ward-based pharmacy, medicines information, aseptic services, non-sterile manufacturing and quality control. Pharmacists work on a rotational or permanent basis in one or more of these departments.

The size and activity of each department depends on the type of hospital and the geographical area. Investigating the differences between NHS organisations before applying for a job will help identify the most suitable hospital environment for you as well as what you can contribute to those departments.

Hospital pharmacists are recognised for their expertise in many specialisms. Some of these include anti-infectives, cardiology, HIV, mental health, older people, oncology, paediatrics and renal pharmacy. They have a direct involvement in patient care and influence treatment choices by being involved in decision-making at the point of prescribing.

Being part of a multi-disciplinary team gives pharmacists opportunities to work with a variety of health professionals and helps build strong networks throughout the hospital.

Professional development

Providing the best care to patients requires hospital pharmacists to build on the knowledge acquired during the five years of pharmacist training.

The hospital sector provides excellent development opportunities and some NHS trusts provide financial support for postgraduate qualifications.

Newly registered hospital pharmacists are encouraged to study for postgraduate certificates or diplomas in clinical pharmacy or pharmacy practice. This additional training develops knowledge, skills and experience  in specific areas of practice, and helps pharmacists identify what they would like to specialise in after completing foundation level practice.

There is a clearly defined career structure in the NHS, with opportunities to develop knowledge and a range of technical, clinical, educational or managerial skills.

Fine print

In April 2013, the basic starting salary for a band 6 pharmacist was £25,783 per year. An additional high-cost area allowance is payable to those working in or close to London, which could add up to £6,279 on the basic salary. Salaries generally increase yearly or when you enter a post at a higher band. Most chief pharmacists are at band 9 and on a starting salary of £77,850 (April 2013 scale).

Hospital pharmacists work 37.5 hours per week, usually Monday to Friday. Involvement in weekend work and bank holiday and on-call rotas will usually be required.

The holiday entitlement is good, with newly registered pharmacists getting 27 days’ annual leave plus eight bank holidays per year. The annual leave entitlement rises to 29 days after five years and 33 days after 10 years of working in the NHS. The NHS pension scheme is considered among the most generous in the UK.

This piece is abridged from an article by Samantha Hlambelo first published online in Tomorrow's Pharmacist (2011).


To learn about the different paths you can take, find some tips to develop yourself and discover options for further education, visit www.pjonline.com/careers  

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