Induction to Community Pharmacy COVID-19 for Pharmacy Technicians

NES Pharmacy has prepared this page to support pharmacy technicians who may be redeployed into community pharmacy from a different pharmacy sector e.g. primary care or have recently joined the GPhC temporary register. This page aims to provide you with:

  • a summary of the key roles and responsibilities you may be expected to carry out

  • resources available that will enable you to practise competently and professionally

You should also access the NES Pharmacy Induction to Community Pharmacy COVID-19 page on Turas Learn.  This page provides additional information on public health services and links to key resources as well as information on how to ensure you maintain your own mental health and wellbeing which you may find useful.

As always, pharmacy technicians should ensure they continue to adhere to the GPhC Standards for pharmacy professionals at all times.

Most health boards and some pharmacy contractors have Locum information packs available, which will be a useful resource to you at this time. If after reading this guidance you have any questions or feel you require further information to support your preparation as a community pharmacy technician, please submit your questions/suggestions here.

Dispensing of patients' medication

Dispensing is a common aspect of the community pharmacy contract and it is likely that you will be involved in this process during your time in community pharmacy. Speaking with the pharmacy team as well as reading their SOPs will give you an idea of how the dispensing process flows in each pharmacy you work in.

The following national occupational standards are related to the dispensing process and may be a useful resource to refer to:

Pharm 08  Confirm prescription validity

Pharm 09 Assemble prescribed items

Pharm 10 – Issue prescribed items


Key points and tips

  • The majority of prescriptions you will dispense will have a barcode which, once scanned, will detail the prescribed product, quantity and directions.

  • Do not assume that the directions will be provided in an appropriate format – you may have to amend directions written in Latin or shorthand

  • Quantities may have to be altered in line with pack sizes e.g. it is common to supply 56 tablets against a prescription for 60, where the pack size is 28

  • Learn how to produce a balance (or owing) on your patient medication record (PMR) for a product which cannot be supplied in full (ask a member of the dispensary team to show you how to do this).

  • Prescriptions without a barcode will have to be entered into the PMR manually

  • You may be asked to dispense weekly dosette boxes / multi-compartment compliance aids for patients.  If you are required to label these, you should use the instalment claiming process, (ask a member of the dispensary team to show you how to do this) as payment for this task is sent electronically via labelling of the prescription.  This will vary depending on which software your community pharmacy is using.

Accredited accuracy checking technicians

If you are an accuracy checking pharmacy technician, you may also be asked to utilise these skills within community pharmacy and may be required to complete a log of accuracy checks to show your competency, before taking responsibility of the final accuracy check.  APTUK released a statement in March regarding this which can be found here.

Universal Claim Framework (UCF)

UCF is the software that allows electronic claims to be made for providing public health services such as Emergency Contraception, Smoking Cessation and Gluten Free Foods – you can find a full list of Public Health Services provided by community pharmacies here.  Please be aware that except for Emergency Contraception the patient’s full address including postcode, date of birth and GP practice are required to enable payment to be made and CHI numbers to be sourced from the Pharmacy Care Record (PCR) system.  If you are consulting with patients, ensure you get this key information every time.

Stock control

Stock control may also be a core activity you will participate in within the community pharmacy such as ordering, receiving, supplying and maintaining stock.  The following national occupational standards within the SVQ are related to stock control processes and may be a useful resource to refer to:

Pharm 12 Order pharmaceutical stock

Pharm 13 Receive pharmaceutical stock

Pharm 14 Maintain pharmaceutical stock

Pharm 15 Supply pharmaceutical stock

Over the counter (OTC) advice

You may be expected to provide patients with advice around what to take for common clinical conditions and minor ailments.  NES Pharmacy has several resources on Turas Learn which may help you. The following three resources are useful as a priority:

In addition, the following national occupational standards within the SVQ are related to providing patients with advice and may be a useful resource to refer to:

Pharm 02 - Provide an effective and responsive pharmacy service

Pharm 03 - Respond to pharmaceutical queries and requests for information

Pharm 04 - Provide advice on non-prescribed medicines and products

Buttercups training also offer several online courses for different pharmacy support staff roles.

You should also familiarise yourself with the restrictions on P medicines.  In addition to the products mentioned in the NES Pharmacy POM to P resource, you should ask your pharmacist what additional care or processes should be exercised with Daktarin® Oral Gel and Canesten® products, which are routinely purchased OTC.

Patient triaging

Medicines counter assistants, dispensing assistants and pharmacy technicians who work on the counter will be required to triage patients requesting treatment from the pharmacist.  You should familiarise yourself with the eligibility criteria for all the public health services provided by community pharmacy (see link above) particularly the suite of Pharmacy First treatments that are available via Patient Group Directions (PGD).  PGDs allow pharmacists to supply Prescription Only Medicines without the needs for a prescription, but only for specific conditions and circumstances. Two examples of national PGDs are those for the treatment of urinary tract infections and impetigo.  Depending on which health board you are working with there may be other PGD treatments available.  Knowledge of eligibility criteria will guide your consultations with the patient and ensure you signpost or treat them effectively.  PGDs available in your board can be found here.

Unscheduled Care

It is common for patients or their representatives to ask for a supply of medicines when they cannot obtain a prescription from a prescriber.  For many of these situations there is provision to supply medicines within the national unscheduled care PGD and so it is important to read the details which can be found here:  Key points to remember are:

  • the pharmacist must be confident that the patient regularly receives the requested medicine on prescription. You can help them by asking for a repeat medicines slip, a previously labelled box, reviewing the patient’s PMR or Emergency Care Summary (ECS) – however, not having “proof” does not mean that a supply should not be made.

  • patients who do not have obvious proof that they have been prescribed the medicine before, should be referred to the pharmacist (who may still be able to supply the medicine through conversation with the patient) 

  • familiarise yourself with the medicines which cannot be provided through the unscheduled care PGD e.g. some controlled substances (see link above)

  • it is key that you get the patient’s correct address, postcode, date of birth and registered GP practice to enable full payment via UCF.

NHS Pharmacy First Scotland

NHS Pharmacy First Scotland was launched in July 2020, replacing the Minor Ailment service.  Scottish government has requested that all members of pharmacy staff should familiarise themselves with the service specification.  You can access the services specification for the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland below as well as the NES quick reference guide.

Key contacts and further resources

Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) – Telephone 0131 467 7767 

Pharmacy Champions – Every Health Board has Pharmacy Champions to support developments within community pharmacy network 

Community Pharmacy Development Teams – Key contact for Community pharmacists within the Health Boards 

Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK)


Coronavirus resources:

Health Protection Scotland 

NES Turas Learn COVID-19 page

NES COVID-19 - Protecting yourself and your workplace environment

What further support do you need?

If after reading this guidance you have any questions or feel you require further information to support your preparation as a community pharmacy technician, please submit your questions/suggestions here.