Pharmacy in Practice

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and their use.

Pharmacy in practice

Most pharmacists practice in either community pharmacies or hospital settings where they are responsible for:

the procurement and supply of prescribed medicines,
sale of over the counter medicines and
provision of relevant information and advice to support their safe and effective use.  

Increasingly pharmacists focus on effective medicines management and aim to optimise the benefit that patients gain from their prescribed treatment as well as the supply of medicines.  Pharmacists can also train as independent prescribers.

Hospital Pharmacists

In hospitals, many pharmacists have specialist clinical roles reflecting the increased complexity of modern medicines treatments.

This involves advising clinicians on the pharmaceutical and therapeutic aspects of drug use and many pharmacists specialise in areas including:  

  • radiopharmaceuticals; chemotherapy; rheumatology and manufacturing  

Pharmacists working in hospitals are valued members of multidisciplinary teams working with other clinicians to improve patient outcomes.

Hospital pharmacists also work in specialist areas of:

  • procurement
  • medicines governance 
  • medicines information

Clinical pharmacy relates to the provision of patient care which optimises medication therapy through the safe, effective and economic use of medicines at all stages of the patient’s journey.

Clinical Pharmacy Standards for hospital exist to improve the pharmacy contribution to patient care. 

Review of Development Needs of Pharmaceutical Staff in Hospital Practice

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) (Now Department of Health) in October 2009 established a review of the development needs of pharmaceutical staff in the hospital sector to make recommendations for the way forward.  The work complements and builds upon previous workforce reviews of the pharmaceutical sector and addresses a number of issues raised at an earlier time by the Pay Review Body allied to recruitment and retention of pharmaceutical staff.  This final report reflects the findings of the review.

Abbreviations used in this report are set out at Appendix 1

Community Pharmacists

In community pharmacies, the traditional role of pharmacists is

  • the dispensing of prescribed medicines
  • sale of over the counter (OTC) medicines for self medication
  • provision of information and advice on medicines  

However, community pharmacists also provide a range of medicines management and public health services including:

  • managing your medicines
  • repeat dispensing
  • minor ailments 
  • specialist smoking cessation services

They also work closely with local communities to address health inequalities through the work of the Building the Community Pharmacy Partnership.  

Pharmacists working in other settings

Pharmacists also work for:


Information on what pharmacists do

What to expect from your pharmacist


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