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How to open a pharmacy in the UK: A quick step-by-step guide

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If you’re thinking of heading a startup, owning a local pharmacy could be an incredibly lucrative opportunity. When you set up a business in the healthcare sector, it’s important to ensure that you operate with transparency to keep yourself and your patients safe.
Whether you’ve acquired pharmacies before or you’re turning to a new venture with different partners, learning the relevant steps before getting involved is imperative. Successful pharmacies rely on medical expertise, professional knowledge, and an excellent quality of service.

Step 1: Do you need qualifications to be a pharmacist?
No matter if you already have a background in pharmacy or you’re entering the field from an entrepreneurial perspective, you’ll need to have the right qualifications.
You can become a pharmacist by completing a Master of Pharmacy degree at a university. Your chosen course needs to be approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council and will take at least four years to complete. After your degree, you’ll also need to take the one-year pharmacist foundation training scheme.
To access these courses, you’ll usually need two or three A levels, including Chemistry. Alternatively, you could do a pharmacy foundation degree if you only have one A level or equivalent.

Step 2: Where’s the best place to open a pharmacy?
Your chosen location for a new pharmacy will determine its success. Unfortunately, larger chain pharmacies claim many of the benefits of the high street market, so you should try to plan carefully.
Being placed next to a chain store pharmacy might sound counterintuitive but could lead to more business. Furthermore, focusing on upscaled, upmarket residential areas could be beneficial for sales and customer affordability.
However, choosing a location that doesn’t already have a pharmacy nearby could help provide the local community with vital, easy access to medicines they need.

Step 3: How should pharmacy owners stay safe?
As a business that handles medications and other restricted items, it’s crucial that you prioritise the safety of your employees and your customers and patients.
Firstly, safe handling of medicines needs to be mandatory amongst all staff members. Make sure you train your employees to receive, categorize and store medicines appropriately, paying close attention to labels to ensure that no customers receive the wrong prescription or dosage.
Secondly, managing and reducing health and safety risks is also of paramount importance. Along with conducting regular risk assessments, staff should be appropriately trained. Keep appliances safe by installing durable power cables from suppliers like RS with the help of professional electricians.

Step 4: Do pharmacies need to be licensed?
To ensure everything is carried out openly, you must obtain the right licensing from governing boards to be able to purchase and sell medications. Each application to open new pharmaceutical premises must also be supported by fitness to practice.
Owners and staff must declare any ongoing investigations or decisions against their adverse fitness to practice. If you’ve submitted these documents to the NHS recently, you won’t need to do it again if the information is still current.

Step 5: Working with professionals
Lastly, you should always ensure that your business practice is safe and legal, regardless of your niche. Do not hesitate to get in touch with legal bodies and trade unions if you’re in any doubt about starting a new pharmacy – or any of the steps involved in the process.

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Current Issue March 2024

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