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Pharmacy Departments and Roles

Cheltenham General Hospital and Gloucester Royal Hospital both have medicines information departments (see detailed information about medicines information) and sterile manufacturing units with specialist facilities for making up medicines (see detailed information about manufacturing units) and monitoring and controlling their quality. They also both have a stores and distribution service that are responsible for purchasing and distributing medicines to all the wards and departments in the hospitals.(see detailed information about stores)

In total the departments employ 183 staff including pharmacists, technicians, ATOs (assistant technical officers) and clerical staff.


Pharmacists must be registered to work in the NHS. For this, they need a degree in Pharmacy from one of the Schools of Pharmacy approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council,  then undertake a one year pre registration period within a pharmacy, followed by a Registration exam. All qualifying pharmacy courses are at Masters Degree level and are four years in length.

Pharmacy Techinicians

To register as a pharmacy technician you need an NVQ level 3 in pharmacy services or equivalent. The training involves both practical experience and study at a college or by open learning. It usually takes 2 years to complete.

Pharmacy Technicians with appropriate qualifications can register with the General Pharmaceutical Council. Currently, registration is voluntary, but will be compulsory from 1st July 2011.  Only technicians with acceptable qualifications will be able to join.

In hospital, there are several grades for pharmacists and qualified pharmacy technicians. Both can specialise in areas such as medicines management, manufacturing, quality control, staff training, information technology, supplies procurement, clinical trials and medicines information services.

Assistant Techincal Officer (ATO)

To work as an ATO you will usually need to have a good standard of education.

Applicants would also usually need:

  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to read and carry out instructions
  • Attention to detail
  • Manual dexterity

ATOs work alongside pharmacy technicians and under the supervision of a registered pharmacist and senior technicians. Staff falling into this category will have a range of roles and responsibilities.