Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Clinical pharmacologists and therapeutics (CPT) are doctors who prescribe drug treatments to prevent and inhibit disease and relieve pain in patients with complex therapeutic problems.
They participate in creating prescribing guidelines, assessing new products and carrying out drug trials and research to develop improved treatments. This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.
Nature of the work
Clinical pharmacologists are also closely involved in clinical and drug regulatory practice, education and research to promote the effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness of drug treatment. At the local level they may participate in drug and therapeutics committees, research ethics committees and formulary committees. They use the British National Formulary which is an essential source of information on the selection and use of medicines. Clinical pharmacologists also use the Yellow Card scheme to report suspected problems to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) . Some CPT consultants are active at the national level on key bodies such as:
- the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)
- the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- the Commission on Human Medicines
- the Joint Formulary Committee (overseeing publication of the British National Formulary)
- the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS)
Common procedures and interventions include:
- safe prescribing, reviewing and monitoring of appropriate drug therapies
- developing treatment plans incorporating lifestyle and pharmacological therapy to prevent cardiovascular disease due to hypertension
- using their knowledge and experience of toxicology to assess and manage the clinical care of patients poisoned by drugs or other chemicals at work or in the environment and those patients who have been abusing drugs such as alcohol or opiates
- undertaking and interpreting the results of clinical trials to evaluate what a drug is doing to the body (pharmacodynamics) or what happens to the drug in the body (pharmacokinetics)
- stroke medicine
Want to learn more?
Find out about:
- the working life of a doctor in this area of medicine
- the entry requirements and training and development
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the pay for junior doctors (doctors in training), SAS doctors (specialty doctors and associate specialists) and consultants.
NHS employers provides useful advice and guidance on all NHS pay, contracts terms and conditions.
Medical staff working in private sector hospitals, the armed services or abroad will be paid on different scales.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
Read about consultant and non-consultant roles in clinical pharmacologist and theraputics, flexible working and about wider opportunities.
The main careers in CPT are:
academic as a senior lecturer/ reader/ professor in a medical school with an honorary NHS consultant contract. Most CPT academics have a subspecialty interest such as hypertension, oncology, epilepsy, gastroenterology, paediatrics, etc. Approximately two-thirds of consultants in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics hold academic posts. As well as having a service commitment, their work will have a strong research emphasis which will contribute to knowledge about drug actions and their clinical usage. They will also play an important role in the planning and delivery of undergraduate teaching in therapeutics. If you are interested in an academic career, you should consider applying for an academic clinical fellowship (ACF), particularly one that provides exposure to CPT. Some trainees use their academic time to prepare an application for funding for a research fellowship leading to a PhD and subsequently apply for an academic clinical lecturer appointment
NHS consultant. There are relatively few NHS consultant jobs in pure CPT, including ones in poisons units. Many more trained clinical pharmacologists have NHS consultant jobs in other specialties such as general acute medicine or cardiovascular medicine. CPT consultants who serve on drug and therapeutics committees, research ethics committees and formulary committees typically spends about half their time in supervision of acute medical admissions, responsibility for medical inpatients and running outpatient clinics. Clinical pharmacologists do not do private practice but it is possible to earn further money by acting as consultants/advisers to the pharmaceutical industry
pharmaceutical industry. Opportunities exist within the pharmaceutical industry to develop new medicines and improve the use of current medicines
Drug regulation. The Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has a particular interest in recruiting trained clinical pharmacologists
You can apply for consultant roles six months prior to achieving your Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). You will receive your CCT at the end of your clinical pharmacologist and theraputics training.
Managerial opportunities for consultants include:
- clinical lead - lead NHS consultant for the team
- clinical director - lead NHS consultant for the department
- medical director - lead NHS consultant for the Trust
Most NHS consultants will be involved with clinical and educational supervision of junior doctors.
Here are some examples of education and training opportunities:
- director of medical education - the NHS consultant appointed to the hospital board who is responsible for the postgraduate medical training in a hospital. They work with the postgraduate dean to make sure training meets GMC standards.
- training programme director - the NHS consultant overseeing the education of the local cohort of trainee doctors eg foundation training programme director. This role will be working within the LETB/deanery
- associate dean - the NHS consultant responsible for management of the entirety of a training programme. This role will be also be working within the LETB/deanery
SAS doctor roles
SAS doctors (Staff, Associate Specialists and Specialty Doctors) work as career grade specialty doctors who are not in training or in consultant posts. You will need at least four postgraduate years training (two of those being in a relevant specialty) before you can apply for SAS roles.
Find out more about the SAS doctor role.
Other non-training grade roles
These roles include:
- trust grade
- clinical fellows
If you have trained on an academic clinical pharmacologist and theraputics pathway or are interested in research there are opportunities in academic medicine.
For those with a particular interest in research, you may wish to consider an academic career in rehabilitation medicine. Whilst not essential, some doctors start their career with an Academic Foundation post. This enables them to develop skills in research and teaching alongside the basic competences in the foundation curriculum.
Entry into an academic career would usually start with an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) and may progress to a Clinical Lectureship (CL). Alternatively some trainees that begin with an ACF post then continue as an ST trainee on the clinical programme post-ST4.
Applications for entry into Academic Clinical Fellow posts are coordinated by the National Institute for Health Research Trainees Coordinating Centre (NIHRTCC).
There are also numerous opportunities for trainees to undertake research outside of the ACF/CL route, as part of planned time out of their training programme. Find out more about academic medicine.
The Clinical Research Network (CRN) actively encourages all doctors to take part in clinical research.
There are opportunities to be employed by the NHS, academic institutions, private sector, universities, organisations and national governing bodies.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
This page provides useful information about the availability of jobs, finding vacancies and where to find out more.
Job market information
There are relatively few NHS consultant jobs in pure CPT, even in poisons units. Many trained clinical pharmacologists have NHS consultant jobs in other specialties such as general acute medicine or cardiovascular medicine. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics had 57 consultants in England (77 in the UK) (2012 RCP consultant census) and 36 medical registrars in the UK (2012 JRCPTB database). Currently, little more than 10% of the consultant workforce is female but this is changing. Whole-time working is still very common in this specialty although the training curriculum supports less than whole-time working. About a third of consultants will reach age 65 in the next ten years. The British Pharmacological Society is campaigning for an increase in the CPT workforce and better career support and development.
The ratio of applicants to ST3 posts in 2014 was 1.7 (10 applicants for 6 NTN and LAT posts) (JRCPTB).
The Centre for Workforce Intelligence has produced a fact sheet on the clinical pharmacology and therapeutics workforce. The report notes the low level of recruitment to the specialty and some difficulties in recruiting to the specialty.
For information regarding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland please click on the links below.
Where to look for vacancies
All candidates apply through the online application system Oriel.
Local education and training boards (LETBs)/deaneries will have details of training vacancies. Not all LETBs/deaneries will offer new training posts in all specialties in all years.
All jobs are advertised on the NHS Jobs website.
- Further information Expand / Collapse