All pharmacists should consider a research fellowship

The views expressed in this letter are those of the author’s. If you would like to submit a letter to The Pharmaceutical Journal, please click here.

We like to think that the way healthcare is delivered in the UK, including the services we provide as pharmacists, is based on evidence; but, in reality, healthcare has been developed based on custom and practice.

Recognising this, in 2009, the US Institute of Medicine set a goal that by 2020, 90% of clinical decisions in the United States will be supported by accurate, timely and up-to-date clinical information, and will reflect the best available evidence to achieve the best patient outcomes[1]
. It is not clear how close the United States is to meeting this target, and the current COVID-19 crisis illustrates how healthcare is always changing, and that there will always be demand for new evidence. And many pharmacists will have been involved in supporting COVID-19-related research.

However, COVID-19 is just one immediate area of concern and most pharmacists will be aware of other areas of their practice where they feel things could be done better — whether by changing treatment regimens or thinking about different ways of providing a service.

Many pharmacists are already looking critically at these areas with local audits and monitoring projects, but we also know that, compared with our colleagues in healthcare, most pharmacists do not see research as being a core part of their professional role, but as an add-on.

It is time to change that and, particularly, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Science and Research Committee would like to highlight the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) fellowship programme. The fellowship provides opportunities for clinicians to take time out from their usual role to undertake a piece of research in an area of their own practice — it allows them to explore something that they have identified as being suboptimal, to understand why and work out how to change it.

An NIHR fellowship is particularly attractive because pharmacists can continue their current employment, including their salary and benefits. There are various types of awards, ranging from training and pre-doctoral awards through to doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships.

Many pharmacists have already received these awards, and they are a credit to the profession. However, we need more people to apply and be similarly successful. The RPS is committed to fostering a culture that values and encourages research, and supports individuals in this endeavour. As always, we are available to give support and advice in the application stages, including mock interviews. Previous award holders have reported how useful this has all been.

Please do think seriously if this could be something you would consider, and get in touch with either the Science and Research Team at RPS (, or one of the recently appointed NIHR academic training advocates for pharmacy, such as Ian Maidment ( or David Alldred ( to discuss further.

There is lots of useful information on the RPS research support pages. You can also read about an NIHR fellow’s personal experience of the fellowship.

Christine Bond, chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Science and Research Committee


[1] Institute of Medicine (US) Roundtable on Evidence-Based Medicine. 2009. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). ISBN-13: 978-0-309-11053-2

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ November 2020, Vol 305, No 7943;305(7943):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208475

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