Community Pharmacist to Clinical Pharmacist: How to make the move?

by | Feb 7, 2023 | Community Pharmacy

Are you a community pharmacist who longs for a bit more clinical growth but don’t know how to make the move? So many of us think there is no chance we will be accepted as a clinical pharmacist in primary care – after all, we have been community pharmacists for many many years and often that clinical knowledge is buried away deeper and deeper as time goes on!

That’s the position I found myself in after being in community pharmacy (in all its forms …Saturday girl, dispenser, pre-reg and finally a registered pharmacist) for 10 years and this blog will give you the 10 TOP TIPS I WISH I KNEW to make the move from community pharmacist to a clinical pharmacist in ‘GP land’.

A picture of a community Pharmacist working in dispensary

Having been involved in many interviews of other potential clinical pharmacists and chatted with other colleagues who wish they made the move sooner – these aspects cropped up time and time again.

My top 10 tips to becoming a Clinical Pharmacist

1. Transferable skills

There are many TRANSFERABLE SKILLS from community pharmacy to the world of primary care so don’t write yourself off! I know it might feel worlds apart but working in community pharmacy means you have these attributes (just a few…)

image for pharmacy course page
  • Great patient skills – After all, you are the first port of call for a patient.
  • You know the process from receiving a prescription until the medication is in hand including issues in the breakdown of communication, common prescription errors, and legalities associated with the prescription.
  • Resilient
  • Adaptable
  • Aware of what services are available in the community and hence can signpost effectively.

2. Not essential to be qualified as a pharmacist for > 2 years

This is desirable and not essential so if you are newly qualified and would like to apply – give it a go – some localities have employed community pharmacists who have just qualified!

3. Not essential to be an independent prescriber

It is not essential to be an independent prescriber in order to work as a clinical pharmacist in primary care. In most cases, interviewers want to know that you are keen to complete this qualification in the future.

What is the independent prescribing (IP) qualification?

It is typically a 6 month part time course that will allow you to prescribe within your area/s of competence, once you have completed and passed the assessments. Be aware that clinical knowledge is not typically taught in this course.

If you are applying for a PCN (Primary Care Network) clinical pharmacist role, keep the following in mind:

  • You will have to complete the 18-month CPPE PCPEP Course (Primary Care Pathway) initially before applying to be enrolled onto the IP course. It is possible to appeal to start the IP course once midway on the CPPE course.
  • You are limited to the list of Health Education England (HEE) -approved universities in order to secure funding for the IP course unless you are able to self-fund.

4. Experience in general practice is NOT ESSENTIAL to become a clinical pharmacist

You know where this is going – if you are a community pharmacist and want to be a clinical pharmacist – take the plunge, no prior experience in general practice is required!

Saying that – if you are able to volunteer at a GP practice or Primary Care Network that is doing something innovative – this will be an added advantage – but absolutely not essential! There are online courses available which will give you the basics in elements that you may require e.g how to use the clinical system etc. Again not essential but an option.

5. Look into Network Direct Enhanced Services (DES) and Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) to help you become a clinical pharmacist

Look into Network DES and ARRS especially if you are applying for a PCN CP role

What is Network Contract DES? It stands for Network Contract Direct Enhanced Service.

What is ARRS? It stands for Additional Roles reimbursement scheme. These are all the varying roles that a PCN can supply with this pot of money and what their roles would involve. There is a diverse set of roles included which are both clinical and non-clinical that can be found in your PCN.

6. Be aware of the Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) and its relevance

This is the primary care equivalent of services in a community pharmacy to optimise patient care and provide funding. QOF stands for Quality and Outcomes framework.

7. Understand the different types of clinical pharmacists (CP) and what that means

A run down for you:

  • Practice-based Clinical pharmacist. This is where you are employed by one GP practice.
  • PCN Clinical Pharmacist. You work across all or a number of the GP practices in that PCN. This is one of the ARRS roles. What is a PCN? A PCN or Primary care Network is essentially a group of GP practices working closely together.
  • Remote contractual work across PCN or Practice-based – can be short-term or long-term.

8. Network

Network with other Clinical pharmacists to understand what their role encompasses – send those messages on LinkedIn or even join telegram groups!

9. Be Confident

Be confident – we can often underestimate the skills we have!

10. APPLY, APPLY, APPLY…to become a clinical pharmacist!

If you have the passion to learn and grow – this will be recognised even if you don’t meet all or any of the desirable qualifications! Clinical growth never stops and this will be the start of another exciting journey!

With all that said…keep in mind:

  • It is an absolutely steep learning curve, but you have got through your degree and can do this! Remember “if you dream it then you can achieve it!”
  • You will have to learn a new IT system. Then again how many of us have had to adjust to different systems from one community pharmacy to another?!
  • And keep an eye out as Health Academy are developing a whole range of courses designed for pharmacists that are working or want to work in clinical practice.
Image showing author at work in primary care clinical pharmacy
Image showing pharmacy room door with Authors name on door.

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