E-job planning for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians: A good practice guide


Medicines are the most common intervention in healthcare, and tools that enable organisations to plan and co-ordinate pharmacist and pharmacy technician time effectively are critical to patient flow, outcomes and experience.

E-Job planning is an effective method of profiling the pharmacy workforce, and integral to service recovery and staff wellbeing (as referenced in the Operational Planning and Guidance 2022/23 and as emphasised in the ‘meaningful use standards’ for e-job planning and e-rostering; by ensuring that the highest level of attainment is met to optimise the capacity of the current workforce). By documenting pharmacy activity in digital job plans, organisations can better understand their workforce capacity and, when combined with e-rostering, match this to demand and offer staff greater flexibility in their working patterns.

This guidance:

  • explains the potential benefits of e-job planning for the pharmacy workforce.
  • provides a framework that organisations might use for this.
  • shows how pharmacy activity can be categorised.

It should be read in conjunction with the national workforce guidance on:

We are grateful to all the pharmacy professionals and workforce leads who contributed to this guidance.

Purpose of e-job planning

E-job planning ensures enough clinical capacity is available to meet the expected demand on the service, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, while protecting appropriate time for the education, training, research, service improvement and continuing professional development (CPD) needs of people and organisations in trusts and across integrated care systems. It complements other existing workforce deployment and planning tools, for example, e-rostering.

E-job planning provides the opportunity for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and their managers to agree the proportion of time each role will spend on clinical care and other specified supporting clinical activities. It identifies those activities being delivered or required that add value for patients but may not be patient facing. It also supports workforce planning and development alongside demand and capacity analysis to forecast changes in workload.

E-job planning is not a discrete, annual episode but part of an integrated approach to service, workforce and financial planning. Pharmacy staff should review job plans throughout the year with their line manager. E-job planning should complement performance management and professional development. This approach enables monitoring of an individual employee’s annual outputs and the balance of professional activities in their job plan and CPD.

Job plans and appraisal

E-job planning is not part of the appraisal process: these activities are distinct but complementary. Job plans can facilitate the delivery of objectives agreed during appraisal but are not a performance management tool. It may be helpful to align objectives across job plans and appraisal.

Who in pharmacy needs a job plan?

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in roles providing direct clinical care (including those who are newly qualified), management or leadership should have a job plan, even where this is not contractually required. Some organisations may opt to create job plans for pharmacy support staff also.

The following groups may not need a plan:

  • pharmacy staff who work exclusively in one clinical or operational area (for example, ward, technical services or dispensary) and for whom e-rostering may be sufficient.
  • foundation trainee pharmacists and pre-registration pharmacy technicians; their generic work schedules and trainee pharmacist and pharmacy technician training curricula may be sufficient.

What should be in a job plan for pharmacy staff?

A comprehensive job plan will describe:

  • the work the employee does for the organisation (for interface roles and depending on the activity, e-rostering or external duties could be used to account for the time the employee is not based in the organisation).
  • when the work is done.
  • where the work is done.
  • how much time is allocated for the work (for example, areas covered including ward, dispensary).
  • what the work delivers for the employer, the employee and patients.

Allocations of planned activities are given in annualised hours to allow actual activities to be timetabled/rostered. Annualising a job plan involves an employee agreeing with their employer to undertake a set number of working sessions annually rather than weekly. This will depend on length of service as the annual leave entitlement for those who have worked less than five years is 27 days but 33 days for those who have worked 10 or more years.

Core elements of pharmacy staff job plans

  • employee’s full name
  • job band, hours of work and job title
  • all hours of work accounted for
  • planned activity clearly categorised as direct clinical care, supporting professional activity, additional NHS responsibilities and external duties (with sub-categorisation into leadership and management, research and evaluation responsibilities and duties)
  • professional activities clearly aligned to the four pillars of practice (clinical practice, leadership, research and education) or other relevant curricula
  • breakdown of expected clinical and non-clinical activity
  • location of planned activity (for example, inpatients, outpatients, primary care networks, community/domiciliary, private clinics, dispensary, medicines information, aseptics).
  • specialty/service line of planned activity
  • expected outcomes.

Activity categories

Direct clinical care

As well as patient-facing activity direct clinical care (DCC) includes multidisciplinary team (MDT) meetings, direct patient care interventions and administrative work directly related to clinical care. All DCC activity should be linked to the clinical activity the NHS employer is commissioned or requires the pharmacy professional to carry out.

Virtual clinics that use video calls and other digital solutions, and pharmacy services that deliver patient support via apps, digital media and telehealth monitoring are included. DCC also includes public health work to improve the health and wellbeing of a specific community, patient group or whole population.

Supporting professional activities

Supporting professional activities (SPA) underpins DCC and may include participation in education and training, research, clinical governance and clinical management activities, for example, review and management of budgets, high-cost drug reporting, investigation of medication incidents and development of guidelines. Organisations may want to sub-categorise SPA into research, evaluation and service development, and education and training, for example, professional development and study leave.

All pharmacy staff should have protected SPA time for revalidation, and all remaining SPA time allocated in job plans should be linked to the non-clinical activity the NHS employer is commissioned or requires the pharmacy professional to carry out.

SPA time should be supported by objectives or pre-defined responsibilities. Approved research activities, beyond basic research for continuing professional development, and roles originating from regulatory requirements or contractual obligations, such as pharmacy education and clinical supervision commitments, should be sufficiently detailed and evidenced within job plans.

External duties

External duties (ED) are not done directly for the NHS employing organisation and should not impact on a team’s ability to deliver NHS services. They include national roles (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, professional bodies, Royal Colleges, arm’s length bodies, etc), academic activities outside the role and trade union representation.

Additional NHS responsibilities

Additional NHS responsibilities (ANR) include appointed roles within the employing organisation, including leadership and management roles at trust, division and departmental level, and the wider NHS. They are not undertaken by the generality of pharmacy professionals within the employing organisation and cannot be absorbed within the time normally set aside for SPA. Organisations may want to sub-categorise ANR into leadership and managerial, research and evaluation responsibilities.

ANR are often linked to a job description or standard NHS roles within education, public health or governance. This includes formal line management responsibilities and ANR linked to the pharmacy professional’s role, for example, specialty lead, clinical governance lead, clinical audit lead, medication safety officer, controlled drug accountable officer, integrated care board member, drug and therapeutics committee member, mental health first aider or freedom to speak up guardian.

Frameworks for categorising activity

Appendix 1 provides example pharmacy job plan categorisations with professional activities mapped to DCC, SPA and ED. These are based on the following frameworks:

  • Pharmacists: The four pillars of practice – clinical practice, leadership and management, education and research described in Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) curricula provide a framework for employees to align professional activities and professional development, and support staff to meet objectives. Job plans can be designed to show how an employee’s working time is divided between these four pillars.
  • Pharmacy technicians: The national occupational standards describe the scope of practice and professional activities for pharmacy technicians. The General Pharmaceutical Council and education providers set out their education and supervision requirements. However, for the purposes of uniformity, in the appendix we have sub-categorised pharmacy technician activity according to the same four pillars as for pharmacists.

Benefits of e-job planning

For the pharmacy department:

  • more efficient staff deployment alongside realistic expectations of the workforce’s capacity for service delivery.
  • ensures pharmacy skills are used to best effect by aligning pharmacy activity to workforce capacity to support service planning; making resources available for maximum impact on patient outcomes.
  • aligns resource to requirements of service redesign, integrated pharmacy and medicines optimisation, etc.
  • more meaningful workload management and escalation; pharmacy workforce capacity is quantified in more detail.
  • identifies the pharmacy service contribution, including partnership and system working, that is not DCC.
  • generates meaningful data and insights to inform discussions about productivity and resource management.
  • demonstrates the productivity of pharmacy services by measuring outputs against clinical capacity
  • enables pharmacy services to adapt service models and reveal unmet need.
  • quantifies required clinical supervision time, particularly for foundation pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
  • makes the breadth and diversity of the pharmacy workforce’s skills more visible.
  • helps pharmacy employees comply with their professional registration requirements by identifying supporting professional activities relevant to revalidation, such as clinical audit participation and research.
  • ensures professional development objectives align with the organisation’s priorities.
  • allows organisations to benchmark how time is allocated to specific professional activities.
  • improves staff recruitment and retention through improved staff job satisfaction.

For employees:

  • more flexible and better matching of capacity and demand supports staff wellbeing.
  • identifies resources needed to do the work.
  • emphasises the employee’s work priorities and clearly links these to the goals of the organisation and their professional objectives.
  • makes their contribution to patient care explicit.
  • ensures expected work outputs are within their capacity and appropriate for their role.
  • clarifies expected work outputs across different elements of practice and development.
  • acts as a useful starting point for appraisals and professional development plans.

Case studies

East Kent University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

E-Job planning for post-registration foundation pharmacists was introduced at all three acute sites, initially as part of the Hospital Pharmacy Transformation Programme response to the Lord Carter productivity in NHS hospitals review and then fully as part of the implementation of e-rostering. The job plans for rotational pharmacists enabled clinical leads to identify the time spent on clinical activities.

All specialty senior pharmacists reviewed the demands on post-registration foundation pharmacists in their teams. The process included a review of wards and other essential commitments, as well as those that were optional or could be streamlined, eg attendance at meetings, ward audits, supervision meetings.

They compared the commitments and number of whole time equivalent (WTE) staff in post to deliver the commitments and created job plans for each rotation based on available capacity. Job plans are now reviewed with each rotation change to identify deviations between the allocated and actual time spent on the activities; the plans are amended as necessary.


  • clinical leads are able to identify how much time staff have for clinical work once other commitments are removed, eg dispensary.
  • standardised job plans for all staff ensure fairness, eg all post-registration foundation pharmacists receive similar supervision.
  • post-registration foundation pharmacists can see in advance what a usual week will entail.
  • discussions are enabled at the beginning of rotations around whether workload is realistic, with the lead amending an individual’s job plan as appropriate.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

A job plan was created for the new specialist mental health pharmacist post recruited using new funding committed to in the NHS mental health implementation plan. Detailing the remit and responsibility of the new role in this way, with relative time commitments aligned to the deliverable outcomes, supported recruitment and planning, and gave the wider mental health pharmacy team clarity about the function of this new role.

Having taken the time to develop this practice in the recruitment process for this new role, it should be simpler to implement job plans for other vacant posts as they arise, for existing employees in the team, and potentially across the pharmacy department.

North East London NHS Foundation Trust

To support the delivery of the e-job planning project, template job plans were developed for consultant, advanced specialist and foundation roles. These were informed by current national guidance, best practice recommendations, existing job plans, job descriptions and feedback from key stakeholders.

The suitability of each template was tested in a six-week pilot.

Pilot participants were asked to report on a weekly basis any variance against the plans and, where applicable, highlight any learning that could be built into the final e-job planning templates and supporting guidance.

Most pharmacists felt that a job plan helped them organise their time more effectively and in a way that aligned to their skill set/competence levels and were happy with the overarching categories.

Appendix: Pharmacy job plan categorisations