An Aussie Pharmacist in England - Pharmacy Resources in Australia and the UK

Part 4) Pharmacy resources and information – what is available/useful in Australia and the UK?

G’day again readers! If we haven’t met, my name is Eleanor and I’m an Aussie Pharmacist living and working in the UK. I currently work as a Health Care Assistant in a private hospital but previously I was a hospital Pharmacy Dispensing Assistant in the NHS. I’m keen to share my personal experiences of pharmacy in the UK compared with Australia. If you’re interested in the roles available to locum Aussie Pharmacists in the UK, and a general comparison of medicines in each country, please have a read of my first blog. I’ve also written about the role of Pharmacy Technicians, and the advanced/alternative roles available to Pharmacists in both countries. In this post, I’ll be talking about some resources, reference guides and medicines information available in each country. Hopefully this will prove helpful for other Aussie Pharmacists moving to the UK, and maybe for British Pharmacists keen to make the move down under.

Let’s begin with medicines information resources. The Pharmacy Board of Australia actually has a mandatory list of reference texts that must be available (either book or electronic) in all Pharmacies. The list can be found here: and includes 13 texts, such as the Therapeutic Guidelines and the Australian Immunisation Handbook. The most commonly used Australian reference text is the Australian Medicines Handbook (AMH). It is similar in many ways to the British National Formulary (BNF) – containing comprehensive monographs for all medicines available in Australia (including mechanism of action, dosing, side effects and monitoring information). It also has helpful summaries of disease states and treatment strategies. The other Australian references I often used as a hospital pharmacist in Australia were:

  • Don’t Rush Crush – very useful when modifying dosage forms for dysphagia or enteral feeding tubes
  • The Australian Injectable Drugs Handbook – a great guide for safely administering medicines via IV, IM, subcut. routes etc.
  • The Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary – a goldmine of practical information whose equivalent I haven’t found in the UK. As well as recipes for making common extemporaneous products, it contains complementary medicines information, lists of ‘cautionary advisory labels’, public health information and advice on biosimilar medications, among much more.

Since moving to the UK I’ve got to know the British National Formulary (BNF) – the most commonly used medicines reference here. One advantage I’ve found of the BNF compared with the AMH is that the treatment strategies for medical conditions are more comprehensive and contain links to the NICE guidelines. One disadvantage is that the monographs don’t seem to show a medicine’s mechanism of action. This is generally the first sentence in the AMH monographs, which I find very helpful; knowing a medication’s mechanism of action helps me better understand its likely side effects and interactions. I was also very impressed to discover the BNF for Children, which I think is more comprehensive than the AMH Children’s Dosing Companion. I haven’t found any list of mandatory British texts (like in Australia), but other resources I regularly used whilst working as a locum in a hospital pharmacy dispensary setting were:

  • Handbook of Drug Administration via Enteral Feeding Tubes – the title describes it well
  • Medusa – an very helpful online injectable drugs guide

Obviously there are many more excellent references utilised by both countries e.g. Martindale, the Merck Manual, Stockley’s Drug interactions and the Cochrane database; I’ve just mentioned a few I found helpful day-to-day in hospital practice.

I’ll also briefly list some practical sources of information about education, registering and professional development. To learn about pharmacy training, registration and career options in the UK, the most logical place to start is the UK’s registering/regulatory organisation the General Pharmaceutical Council: . The key professional membership association for the UK is the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, who provide professional advocacy, medicines information and guidelines and continuous professional development training (

In Australia, the registering/regulatory body is the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA): . The main professional membership association is the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia ( ) who like the Royal Pharmaceutical Society provide advocacy and career support, publish guidelines and deliver continuing professional development programs. There is also the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, a membership and education association for hospital pharmacists.

Knowing about available resources and where to look for relevant information has been very helpful as I moved not just to a new job, but to a new country. I hope this short review is helpful for other international pharmacists in a similar position to myself.

Eleanor Kelly

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