Pharmacy support worker

Pharmacy support workers are a key part of the pharmacy team. They order, prepare and help to dispense medicines.

They work in different areas, including:

  • distribution centres
  • on wards in hospitals
  • dispensaries in hospitals
  • NHS contracted community pharmacies
  • care homes
  • primary care
  • GP practices in some Health Boards

Pharmacy support workers are also known as pharmacy assistants or dispensing assistants.

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become a pharmacy support worker, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • English
  • Maths

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.


Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to start your career journey as a nursing support worker.

Find out more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.

Modern Apprenticeships 

Begin or continue learning the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to become a nursing support worker with a Modern Apprenticeship.

Learn more about the Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support.

All Healthcare Support modern apprentices study the three mandatory units of communication, health and safety, and learning development. For pharmacy support worker, you will then choose your remaining units from the clinical pathway options.

The role

As a pharmacy support worker, you’ll use the pharmacy stock control and dispensing system to send and receive stock, update records and prepare labels for medicines. You will also carry out administrative tasks, including answering enquiries by telephone or in-person.

Within a GP practice environment, you may undertake searches within the practice system and some basic analysis.

Pharmacy support workers are normally supervised by pharmacy technicians or pharmacists.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • ordering medicines
  • carrying out routine stock checks
  • pre-packing, assembling and labelling medicines
  • process orders and prescriptions
  • selling over-the-counter medicines
  • recording data for analysis

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring for people
  • communicating with people
  • listening
  • numeracy
  • organisation
  • persuasion
  • problem-solving
  • relationship-building

Who you’ll work with

You could work with

  • pharmacists
  • pharmacy technicians
  • other pharmacy support workers
  • GP practice staff
  • other healthcare professionals

Working environment

You could work in:

  • a hospital
  • community pharmacies
  • distribution centres
  • GP practices
  • care homes
  • prisons

Useful information

To work as a pharmacy support worker in NHSScotland, you’ll need to join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Did you know?

There were over 100 million prescriptions dispensed in Scotland in 2018.

Learning and development

Pharmacy support workers in NHS hospitals need to complete the Mandatory Induction Standards. This is for healthcare support workers.

Once employed as a pharmacy support worker, you’ll need to undertake:

You might not necessarily need to complete the full award, instead, only completing units relevant to your area of practice.

You’ll have the opportunity to work closely with pharmacy technicians and pharmacists. Once you become experienced, you may apply for a pre-registration trainee pharmacy technician post if you meet the essential criteria. This could lead to a career as a pharmacy technician.