NHS Careers > Explore by career > Pharmacy > Pharmacist > Community pharmacist

Working as a community pharmacist

Community pharmacists usually work in the high street, local and rural pharmacies.

They are involved in the sale and supply of medicines and give advice about medicines, symptoms and general health matters. They are responsible for dispensing medicines, counsel patients on their proper use, clarify with GPs and other prescribers that dosages are correct, and check that new treatments are compatible with other medicines the patient may be taking.

Detailed knowledge

Community pharmacists use their detailed knowledge to ensure that prescribed medicines or over-the-counter medicines are supplied correctly and that patients and members of the public know how to use them and are aware of potential side effects. They also provide advice and treatments for minor ailments.

Health and well-being

Increasingly, community pharmacists and their teams give advice to members of the public on how to improve their health and well-being. They advise on a variety of health-related issues such as stopping smoking, healthy eating and drinking and sexual health, so good communications skills are essential. This work may involve supplying free literature, signposting people to other members of the healthcare team and supporting promotional health campaigns. As part of this work they may also perform screening tests, like blood pressure or cholesterol measuring or screening tests for chlamydia.

Safe supply of medicines

Legal and professional requirements are in place to control the safe supply of medicines and other services provided from community pharmacies. Legally, every community pharmacy in Britain must operate under the direct supervision of a pharmacist so good management and leadership skills are important. Many community pharmacists are also be involved in the management of the business and therefore need to develop skills in managing people, stock control, marketing, finance and accounting.

Community pharmacists’ work may also take them out of the pharmacy to advise residential or nursing homes on the proper handling and administration of medicines. They may visit housebound patients to discuss their medicines or deliver fresh supplies. Some community pharmacists also work sessions in GP practices and advise on appropriate prescribing.

Further information

Community pharmacists are a part of the wider team of staff working in public health. For more information about other opportunities in the public health arena, visit the PHORCAST website.