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Recruiting a clinical pharmacist – some handy hints

by in GP Practice Management, Pharmacists

Recruiting a clinical pharmacist – some handy hintsMuch has been said about the role of practice based clinical pharmacists and the benefits they bring to practices. Indeed, only last month in its ‘Next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View’ publication, NHS England said its aim is to increase the number of pharmacists in general practice to over 900 by March 2018 and over 1,300 by March 2019.

If those targets are to be met, a large amount of practices up and down the country will be recruiting a practice based clinical pharmacist. For most, it will be the first time they’ve attempted to hire somebody for this very specific role, so how can you effectively go about finding the right person for you?

What’s their role?

As with all roles, the first step in recruiting the right person for your needs is to work out what they will need to do.

According to the Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA), a common mistake practices make is assuming a practice pharmacist is a ‘Mini GP’. This clearly isn’t case and the aims of a clinical pharmacist are to:

  • Reduce the medicines-related workload on doctors
  • Increase safety and quality of practice prescribing
  • Provide support on medicines-related issues to the practice team, including nurses, receptionists, GPs, trainees and other healthcare professionals

Some of the tasks that a practice pharmacist could help with are listed in a previous blog post here.

Qualities you need

Once the above is complete, you can then start thinking about the person you need – and the skills and experience they have.

The PCPA points out that all qualified pharmacists have undergone either a three or a four-year degree and 12 months of on-the-job training as a preregistration pharmacist before taking their final exams. Following qualification they will undergo foundation training, after which they may then undertake postgraduate studies – which would be considered desirable, rather than essential, criteria for a practice pharmacist. This could include:

  • A prescribing qualification
  • A clinical diploma in hospital pharmacy, or community pharmacy
  • A research qualification (e.g., a masters degree)

Ask whether you would prefer a pharmacist with practice experience – which will be harder to find but should integrate faster – or whether you can accept somebody newly qualified who will require more training and a longer induction, or someone in-between. Think about which roles will be most critical to your practice and choose the level of experience accordingly.

Where to recruit

If you decide to hire a permanent member of staff, rather than opting for a locum, roles can be advertised on NHS Jobs in the same way as practice nurse roles. Other options include advertising in pharmacy journals such as The Pharmaceutical Journal or in specialist magazines. Most medical recruitment agencies also have pharmacy sections that can help recruit for both permanent and locum positions.

To make your life easier, the PCPA has published some very handy job ads, person specifications and list indemnity considerations. They can be found here in a detailed guide.


Ask the right questions

The next stage – and the most important – is the interview. Knowing what questions to ask can be tricky, so here are a few pointers:

Settling in questions – ask about career pathways, experience etc. 

Why they want the job – ask why they want to work for your practice, what attracted them to the role, how they will help the practice overcome challenges and bring benefits.

Self-management – find out they manage workloads and deal with stress.

Team ethos – question how they will integrate themselves into the team, their ability to ‘muck-in’ when needed, what they think makes a good team, and so on.

Communications – ask what they think effects great communication and how they will do it.

Flexibility at work – ask how they will ensure ALL of their work is complete, whilst still ensuring a healthy work/life balance.

Clinical governance – find out how much the candidate understands about clinical governance?

Evidence based practice – how will they decide what is best practice in a given condition/therapeutic area? Ask as many specific questions as you feel is necessary.

Special interests – do they have any specialist areas of interest? How can they be used to help the practice?

Personal qualities – what are their strengths and weaknesses? Why are they better suited than other candidates? Where do they see themselves five years from now? 

CV questions – ask anything specific that you’ve picked up from their CV.

IT skills – find out how knowledgeable they are with software.

Their questions – Finally, ensure you provide time for the candidate to ask questions and have a general chat.

Once again, the PCPA has published a document full of suggested interview questions – click here to find out more.

Various pilots have highlighted the benefits of having more clinical pharmacists in general practice by reducing GP workload and helping ensure patients are seen by the right professional in a more convenient and timely way. Hopefully the points above will help you recruit the right pharmacist and enjoy the benefits they can bring.

Have you got any other recruitment tips you can share? Please comment or below or on the Practice Index Forum thread here.

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