Pharmacy support staff refers to individuals working as part of the pharmacy team who are not registered with us but have important roles in:
- the dispensing and supply of medicines or medical devices
- advising on the use of medicines and medical devices
- assisting pharmacy professionals to provide pharmacy services to individuals
Support staff work under the supervision of a registered pharmacy professional to carry out tasks related to the dispensing and supply of medicines, providing information and/or delivering pharmacy services. Support staff within these roles may work in many different settings.
As well as accrediting courses for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, we also accredit training courses for pharmacy support staff. Dispensing/pharmacy assistants and medicines counter assistants must have undertaken the appropriate training.
In 2019 the General Pharmaceutical Council developed revised requirements for the education and training of support staff. The Council plans to introduce these requirements in October 2020 and are making them available to help course providers and employers prepare. The Council will provide further information and guidance for employers and course providers closer to the implementation date, and information on arrangements for accreditation of courses during 2020/21 will be shared in due course.
A dispensing assistant or pharmacy assistantis involved in a range of duties within the pharmacy. They work under the supervision of a pharmacist and assist the pharmacist and pharmacy technician in the dispensing process. A dispensing / pharmacy assistant might work in a hospital pharmacy or community pharmacy and have varying roles and responsibilities.
Any member of staff involved in the dispensing process must meet the General Pharmaceutical Council’s minimum training requirements for this type of role and start training within three months of starting in the role.
To meet minimum training requirements a dispensing/pharmacy assistant needs to take the relevant modules of the Level 2 certificate in pharmacy service skills.
To start training towards becoming a dispensing/pharmacy assistant you first need to be employed, either full-time or part-time, in a hospital or community pharmacy.
The reason for this is that the training is vocational, and you will be required to demonstrate that you can put the knowledge you have acquired into practice.
The entry requirements for the course are determined by the individual course provider. However, you will be expected to be employed in a pharmcy and the course provider may require that you hold GCSE or equivalent qualifications.
Approved dispensing/pharmacy assistant qualifications
Find out details of the approved national qualifications and GPhC accredited training providers together with the latest accreditation reports.
For further information on the accreditation and recognition of these programmes, please see Approval process for education and training providers.
A medicines counter assistant is involved in the sale of over-the-counter medicines and works under the supervision of a pharmacist. They are trained to offer advice on common ailments and must know when to refer a customer to a pharmacist.
Medicines counter assistants must complete an accredited medicines counter assistant course, or the relevant units of a General Pharmaceutical Council recognised dispensing assistant or pharmacy technician course.
The length of the course varies between programme providers, however, as a guide, the course is normally between three and six months in length. The General Pharmaceutical Council requires that a medicines counter assistant has completed training in a maximum of three years.
For more detailed information on the General Pharmaceutical Council’s training requirement for those who work on the medicines counter please see
To train as a medicines counter assistant you first need to be employed, either full-time or part-time, in a pharmacy. The reason for this is that the training is vocational. You will be required to demonstrate that you can put the knowledge you acquire into practise.
The course is delivered through distance learning, with course providers offering online or paper-based learning options.
You will not normally need to meet any minimum qualification requirements to undertake the programme, however, entry requirements are determined by the individual course provider, so please check this with your chosen provider.
Accredited medicines counter assistant training programmes
You can find details of the accredited training providers of medicines counter assisant programmes together with the latest accreditation reports.
For further information on the accreditation of these programmes please see Approval process for education and training providers.