Hemant Patel: The pharmacist's role is expanding as never before

If you are looking for a challenge in the healthcare arena that is fast- evolving and patient-focused, then pharmacy could be the choice for you. Many pharmacists now operate at the frontline of the NHS and today, the role of the pharmacist is expanding as never before. You can choose to work in a variety of areas including community pharmacy, hospital, primary care, the pharmaceutical industry, academia, research or the armed forces. Opportunities are also developing in specialist areas such as veterinary pharmacy.

In whatever field they operate, pharmacists work to improve health, either by researching new medicines, working as part of a team with doctors and nurses in hospitals or giving advice directly to patients. They also play a major part at a senior level within the NHS framework, managing medicines and making the best use of resources allocated for medicines.

Pharmacists are also involved in the regulation of medicines, ensuring that they are safe and effective. And, of course, pharmacists are teaching in our universities to help develop the pharmacists of tomorrow.

If you're interested in working abroad, then your skills as a pharmacist could be in demand worldwide and opportunities within international pharmaceutical companies are growing all the time as new markets emerge.

The responsibilities that pharmacists have are increasing all the time and some are already able to prescribe medicines for patients. By working closely with a doctor, they can adjust a patient's medication in accordance with an agreed protocol.

This is all part of the Government's stated aim of improving public access to healthcare, to help people stay well and out of hospital and patients to better treat their own conditions at home. Pharmacists have long shown that they have the skills and expertise to make a significant contribution to NHS services, improve public health and provide choice. Other initiatives such as community-based minor ailment schemes and the introduction of Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (ETP) will place pharmacists at the cutting edge.

Pharmacists also help people to lead healthier lifestyles. For example, we have a significant role in helping people stop smoking and offering valuable expert advice on areas such as sexual health.

To qualify as a pharmacist, students must take a four-year Masters of pharmacy degree course followed by a year of pre-registration training within a pharmacy workplace (for which you get paid). Finally, you must pass the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain's (RPSGB) registration exam, after which you will be able to practise as a pharmacist. The RPSGB is the regulatory and professional body for pharmacists, working to protect the public and also develop the pharmacy profession. In Northern Ireland you must be registered with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Pharmacists who are registered with either PSNI or RPSGB are eligible for registration with the other organisation.

Although most courses are geared to those with A-levels in chemistry and two other subjects from biology, mathematics or physics, students may also be considered with chemistry or biology (and one other subject). You also need literacy and numeracy skills with minimum GCSE in maths and English language at grade C or above. In Scotland, students require Highers in the sciences. Approximately one-third of students admitted to schools of pharmacy have other qualifications. These include the Irish School Leaving Certificate, National or Higher National Certificate or Diplomas, international baccalaureate or Access qualifications. You should check the precise entry requirements of your chosen school. For more information and links to the different schools log onto: www.pharmacycareers.org.uk.

And don't forget, life as a pharmacy student is great fun. Aside from university life, the RPSGB has its own British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (see: www.bpsa.com) which is the national body representing pharmacy students and pre-registration trainees. Log onto their website and see the variety of social and study-related events they organise and the help and advice they can offer.

Every year the RPSGB holds the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) which is recognised as the leading pharmacy science and practice event in the country. This year's event takes place at the Manchester International Convention Centre, from 4-6 September. Visit www.bpc2006.org for more information.

On behalf of the profession, I look forward to welcoming you to a career in pharmacy.

Hemant Patel is President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before