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Pharmacy is an integral part of the NHS ecosystem, delivering essential clinical services as well as medication procurement and supply. The pharmacy workforce includes pharmacists, pharmacy technicians , and other support staff including pharmacy assistant technical officers (ATO). Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council and work within the highest professional standards.

Pharmacy is a highly diverse and rewarding career choice with multiple pathways for development and opportunities for progression. Pharmacists are highly skilled healthcare professionals who are experts in medicines and therapeutics.

The pharmacy workforce can be found working across any healthcare related sector including primary, secondary and tertiary care settings:

  • Examples of primary care settings include general practice, care homes, community pharmacies and community services

  • Examples of secondary and tertiary care settings include hospitals, urgent care centres and specialist outpatient clinics

The pharmacy workforce is also integral to the pharmaceutical industry and can work in drug development, research, clinical trials, manufacture and medical affairs. In addition, pharmacists can work in strategic roles within NHS England, Integrated Care Boards (ICB), and specialist networks such as Integrated Pharmacy and Medicines Optimisation (IPMO).

The diagram below demonstrates that pharmacy professionals can apply their skills in diverse roles across a multitude of healthcare related settings and non-healthcare sectors.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan launched in June 2023 sets out the next phase in the growth and development of the NHS workforce, including an ambitious programme for the transformation of the pharmacy workforce in England across all settings. This includes:

  • Increasing the number of training places for pharmacists each year, including the consideration of pharmacy degree apprenticeships

  • Expanding the pharmacy technician role to support skill-mix

  • The continuation of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS)

  • The requirement to increase the number of Designated Prescribing Practitioners (DPPs) to support the independent prescribing agenda

Training and development


Pharmacists must complete a 5 year programme which includes a 4 year Master of Pharmacy degree (MPharm) followed by a placement based trainee pharmacist foundation year. Pharmacists can then choose to complete further work-based postgraduate training relevant to their healthcare setting which aligns with the Advanced Pharmacist Framework such as the Clinical Pharmacy Dip/MSc, Independent Prescribing qualification and more. From 2026, it is expected that all newly qualified pharmacists will complete their independent prescribing qualification as part of their undergraduate study programme.

Experienced pharmacists may also choose to specialise in a clinical area such as cardiology, respiratory, endocrinology, nephrology, microbiology and mental health to name but a few, and this may involve completing an additional qualification in Advanced Clinical Practice (ACP). Furthermore, some pharmacists may go on to achieve credentialing as a Consultant Pharmacist.

The diagram below shows the increasing levels of post-graduate professional development and stages of practice for pharmacists. The outermost ring includes the competency based domains which pharmacists demonstrate.

Pharmacy Technicians:

Training to become a pharmacy technician usually requires completing a two-year accredited pharmacy technician course. It combines practical work-based experience with study, either at college or by distance learning. Courses cover:

  • human physiology  

  • disease management  

  • actions and uses of medicine

  • manufacturing  

  • pharmacy law  

Please click here for more information on how to become a pharmacy technician.

This flowchart shows how to become a pharmacy technician and an overview of working in various healthcare related sectors.

Pharmacy roles in primary care include:

NCL Pharmacy Ambassador:

  • Amina Ali is an Advanced Clinical Pharmacist and is also the NCL Pharmacy Ambassador.

  • Amina Ali co-hosts a podcast series in collaboration with Clinical Pharmacist Solutions. This series is aimed at the primary care pharmacy workforce across community pharmacy and general practice and discusses topics and issues relating to collaborative working across healthcare interfaces to achieve the best outcomes for NHS patients. Listen to the podcast here: Podcast | Clinical Pharmacist Solutions

Watch the below video to find out more about the role of NCL's Pharmacy Ambassador, Amina Ali.

This page has more content for members.

NCL's Pharmacy workforce can access the NCL Primary Care Pharmacy Network, which provides peer to peer support for those working in primary care organisations across NCL.

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