Pharmacists are professionally qualified to prepare and dispense medicines. In NHSScotland, they work in frontline services, providing expert advice on the safe use and supply of medicines. Working closely with other healthcare professionals, they ensure patients receive help and advice about their prescribed medication, within GP surgeries, or during and after their stay in hospital. Pharmacists also ensure the appropriate guidelines and laws that apply to pharmaceuticals are followed.

Hospital Pharmacists have the responsibility for overseeing the buying, dispensing, quality testing, delivery and use of medicines.

They also advise other healthcare professionals about safe use and supply of medicines. This ensures the medicines prescribed to patients are suitable and effective.

Pharmacists are responsible for:

  • training and supervision of staff, such as Pharmacy Support Workers (sometimes known as Pharmacy Assistants or Dispensing Assistants) and Pharmacy Technicians in a hospital setting
  • checking the quality of medicines supplied to patients
  • ensuring that the supply and use of medicines is within the law
  • providing advice to patients about medicines, how to take them, and what the possible side effects may be
  • help patients to manage their long-term health conditions
  • advising other healthcare professionals, including Doctors and Nurses, on the safe use of medicines

To become a Pharmacist, useful skills include:

  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • an interest in patient health and wellbeing
  • strong communication skills, including listening
  • numeracy and IT skills
  • leadership skills with a willingness to train and supervise others

Useful abilities include:

  • able to understand and apply the law controlling medicines
  • able to work with all types of people
  • able to explain clearly to members of the public
  • strong organisational skills

Before you can work as a Pharmacist, you have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the independent regulator for Pharmacists. To register, you need to undertake a GPhC accredited Master of Pharmacy degree (MPharm). The following Scottish universities offer the course, which lasts four years, full time:

Entry requirements for each university can vary. Both accept SQA Highers, usually at AAAB or AABB grades, including Chemistry, Maths, English and Biology or Physics. SQA Advanced Highers at BB can also be considered. Please contact the university directly for specific information about entry requirements, including other accepted academic qualifications.

You can find out about other UK universities offering accredited programmes by visiting the GPhC or UCAS websites.

Once you have graduated and hold a UK accredited MPharm degree, you must complete a one-year pre-registration training course in a pharmacy and pass the GPhC's registration assessment.

Pharmacy Technicians looking to progress their career and become a registered Pharmacist can complete the Foundation Pharmacy degree. This is a 2 year full time course, which could lead to direct entry to an accredited MPharm degree at year two.

There are many ways to develop your career as a Pharmacist in NHSScotland.

You may have the opportunity to undertake and support research within a clinical speciality, or educate students, medical and nursing staff by providing specialist pharmacy advice.

You will also need to continue your professional development throughout your career. Information on the requirements put in place by the GPhC for Continuing Professional Development (CPD), can be found on their website. 

Once qualified, Pharmacists can also join The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). Visit their website for information about courses and workshops that can help you keep your skills and knowledge up to date.

National Learning Pathway for Pharmacists working in General Practice

The Scottish Government has allocated funding for the recruitment of Pharmacists with advanced clinical skills to work directly in GP practices.

These new roles will support the care of patients with long term conditions as well as freeing up GP time to spend with more complex patients, leading to real benefits for patients and communities across Scotland.

View the video below to find out more about the pathway, developed by NHS Education for Scotland (NES).

Find out more information from these professional and regulatory bodies:

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

The GPhC is the regulatory body for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. It accredits education programmes and promotes standards for the safe and effective practice of pharmacy, to ensure public health and safety is protected. Find out more on the GPhC website.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS)

Set up in September 2010, the RPS is the professional membership body supporting pharmacists working in the UK. Membership is optional and not a prerequisite to becoming a registered pharmacist. Find out more on the RPS website.