Pharmacy teams

Published on: 10th February 2022 | Updated on: 30th June 2022

Every community pharmacy is required to be operated under the control of a ‘Responsible Pharmacist’, but they are supported in their work by a team. Pharmacists have supported their staff to train and develop to ensure that the extended role of the pharmacist can be achieved by having a team who are competent to support and deliver a safe and effective pharmaceutical service.

Community pharmacies and pharmacy professionals are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). The GPhC sets out standards for the sector to follow to provide high quality care so that the public can have confidence in the profession.

All pharmacy staff are required to respect the confidentiality of patient information and to follow the NHS Code of Practice on Confidentiality, the Common Law on confidentiality and the Data Protection Act.

Pharmacists and their training

Community pharmacists are experts in medicines and managing minor illnesses.

The underlying principle for all pharmacy education and training is ensuring safe and effective care for patients.  This principle underpins pharmacists’ work throughout their undergraduate, postgraduate and continued learning and subsequent career pathway. Students undertake a four-year Masters in Pharmacy degree course that teaches them about the origin and chemistry of drugs, the preparation and formulation of medicines and the actions and uses of medicines including physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology.

After the degree course the student undertakes a one-year placement working in a pharmacy under the supervision of an experienced pharmacist. At the end of this year, they take a professional examination and those who successfully complete the examination can register as a pharmacist.

Pharmacists continue to keep their knowledge up to date during their career by undertaking continuing professional development.

Support staff

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy Technicians are professionally skilled and essential members of the pharmacy team, who broadly prepare, dispense, supply and issue a wide range and variety of medicines to patients. Whilst they work under the supervision of the pharmacist, Pharmacy Technicians are responsible and accountable for their own accurate and safe practice. They are registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) for their license to practice. The Association of Pharmacy Tehcnicians UK (APTUK) is the professional leadership body for Pharmacy Technicians.

Accredited Checking Technician (ACT)

ACTs are pharmacy support staff that have undertaken additional training to allow them to undertake an accuracy check of dispensed medicines. The pharmacist will undertake a clinical check of the prescription during the dispensing process but working with an ACT means the pharmacist does not need to undertake the final accuracy check of the dispensed medicines in most circumstances. An increasing number of pharmacy contractors are supporting members of their dispensing team to qualify as ACTs in order to improve the efficiency of the dispensing process and to free up pharmacist time to allow them to deliver other services.

Dispenser/ Dispensing Assistant

Dispensers support the pharmacist in the dispensing of prescriptions and the management of dispensary stock. They will also generally fulfil the roles of an MCA (see below) when required. It is a professional requirement that dispensing assistants are competent in the areas in which they are working to a minimum standard equivalent to the Pharmacy Services Scottish/National Vocational Qualification (S/NVQ) level 2 qualification or undertaking training towards this.

Medicines Counter Assistant (MCA)

MCAs are generally the first point of contact for patients providing a wide range of functions to support the delivery of services and the retail functions of the pharmacy. They undertake the prescription reception process, including supporting patients to complete the declarations on NHS prescriptions. Advice on the treatment of self-limiting illness and basic healthy lifestyle support will be provided by MCAs working to a protocol and under the supervision of the pharmacist. Some MCAs will provide aspects of NHS commissioned services, such as NHS Health Checks, following appropriate training and accreditation. It is a professional requirement that any assistant who is given delegated authority to sell medicines under a protocol should have undertaken, or be undertaking, an accredited course relevant to their duties.

PSNC negotiates with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) on behalf of all NHS community pharmacies in England. Learn more about PSNC.