If you have a scientific mind and would enjoy working with the public as well as health professionals, this could be the job for you
Hospital pharmacists are experts in the field of medicines, how they're used and their effect on the human body. As well as being responsible for dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists are involved in the purchasing and quality testing of medicines. They may also manufacture medicines, as in some cases treatments need to be tailor made for individual patients.
You'll work closely with medical and nursing staff to make sure hospital patients receive the best treatment, advising on the selection, dose and type of administration. You'll also provide help and advice to patients in all aspects of their medicines.
While most hospital pharmacists are based within NHS or private hospitals, the role can extend beyond this with responsibility for medicines in health centres, nursing homes, hospices and general practitioners' (GP) surgeries.
As a hospital pharmacist, you'll need to:
When you have substantial experience, you may be involved in teaching, both within the pharmacy department and in other areas of the hospital.
Salaries within private hospitals may be set at different levels.
Income data from Health Careers. Figures are intended as a guide only.
NHS hospital pharmacists typically work 37.5 hours a week. This includes weekends and some extra hours may be required. You will also usually be part of an on-call rota.
Flexible working arrangements, part-time work and job-sharing are possible. Career breaks may be possible within the NHS.
To qualify as a hospital pharmacist you need to:
You will then be able to apply for registration with GPhC, which is necessary to practise as a pharmacist in England, Wales and Scotland. Pharmacists in Northern Ireland must register with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.
There are universities across the UK which are accredited by the GPhC to offer the necessary MPharm degree. Details of all of them can be found at GPhC: Accredited MPharm Degrees.
Entry to the profession without a pharmacy degree or with an HND only is not possible. Work as a pharmacy technician (usually trained to NVQ level 3) will give experience of the work environment but will not allow progression to hospital pharmacist.
During the pre-registration training you will be assigned a personal tutor who is an experienced pharmacist. To find out more about this training year see GPhC: Pre-registration Training Placement.
In order to register as a pharmacist you must also demonstrate your fitness to practise.
You will need to have:
If you have supervisory responsibility, you will also require effective management and leadership skills.
Try to get experience either in a setting working with the public or in a local pharmacy that will give you exposure to working with prescriptions and drugs. Any knowledge and experience of the profession you can demonstrate will be helpful.
You should also consider becoming a student member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. This provides access to resources, networking opportunities and support throughout your studies.
The majority of hospital pharmacists work for hospitals in the NHS.
It is also possible to work in the private sector for companies such as BMI Healthcare, BUPA and Nuffield Health. They, along with other private sector providers, run care homes for older people and adults and children with mental health, learning or physical disabilities, as well as hospitals and clinics.
NHS trusts may also employ locum pharmacists to work in their hospital pharmacy departments. In these instances, you may work for an agency but you could also work for an individual hospital or NHS trust on a casual basis.
Look for job vacancies at:
After becoming a registered pharmacist, many hospital pharmacists develop their careers by taking a certificate or diploma in clinical pharmacy, which is often followed by an MSc. This is usually necessary to be able to progress to more senior grades.
You will undertake a range of training to support you in your chosen speciality or career path. Training opportunities include in-house training provided by the pharmacy department or hospital, regionally or nationally organised study days or courses, initial speciality training and training in management.
To remain registered with the GPhC you must carry out regular continuing professional development (CPD) to show you're up to date with the constantly changing profession. Certain standards are set by the GPhC which includes recording your CPD in a particular format. Find out more at GPhC: CPD.
It is important that you keep abreast of developments in drug research, including:
You can do this by reading professional journals and publications and attending courses and training sessions throughout your career.
Becoming a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society will provide access to relevant resources, events, a mentoring service, professional network, webinars and CPD support.
If you work in the NHS you will follow a structured career progression with opportunities to study for clinical and management qualifications, often supported by the employing trusts.
As a newly qualified pharmacist you will typically rotate between different pharmacy services offered by your hospital. These may include:
Following two to three years' experience, you may apply for a more senior Band 7 pharmacist position. This is usually a rotational role but with more emphasis on specialising in a chosen area of pharmacy practice, for example:
Opportunities exist to progress further to the role of supplementary or independent prescriber or to hospital pharmacy consultant (pharmacists with special interests). There are fewer opportunities in these roles, however, and it's sometimes necessary to relocate in order to progress.
You may also take on a role as a tutor by lecturing pre-reg trainees, delivering presentations to other medical staff or providing tutorial support to undergraduate pharmacy students.
Opportunities also exist for you to undertake locum work.