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CPS Board unanimously reject Scottish contract offer

The Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) Board has unanimously rejected an initial contract offer for the 2023/24 financial package on behalf of community pharmacy network in Scotland. CPS has been in negotiations with Scottish Government on the contract since September 2022 for the financial year 2023/24.

In recent years CPS has been very aligned with Scottish Government and has enjoyed a solid working relationship. However, in recent months relations have deteriorated.

In a statement released this week, CPS commented:

“This [negotiations] has largely been collaborative however in recent months negotiations have departed from the normal process of engagement with conversations occurring in areas of Government that CPS has no access to. The protracted negotiations have eventually resulted in an offer for this year on Thursday the 25th of May. This was unanimously rejected by the CPS Board at an emergency meeting.

The context to the recent contract negotiations is the serious financial situation experienced across the community pharmacy network in Scotland. Rising energy costs, rapidly inflating drug costs and workforce issues continue to make day-to-day business increasingly tough for pharmacy owners in Scotland.

“Scotland’s network of pharmacies are in serious financial trouble. Like all businesses, their costs have increased significantly in the last year. The difference for our members is that they are unable to pass on costs to the customer to remain viable as the vast bulk of their income comes from the NHS.

“In particular, the medicines we buy on behalf of the NHS to fill prescriptions are costing us more than they ever have. NHS income is barely covering wholesaler bills in many cases. In some cases, medicines are costing more than we are paid by the government for them, so pharmacy owners are supplying at a loss to maintain continuity of care for their patients. We know that some are taking to borrowing just to pay their wage bills – a situation which cannot continue.
“The funding package which may be imposed on our members, we fear, is not enough to keep our world-leading services running as they have been through the pandemic and beyond. The impact of insufficient funding on businesses and communities alike is devastating – community pharmacies are the only free professional healthcare service available without an appointment across the whole country.
“On top of around 9 million prescriptions items being supplied each month, we are proud to say that since its’ launch in July 2020, our network have delivered well over 5 million NHS Pharmacy First Scotland consultations. Without proper funding, our plans to develop this service further would need to be reviewed and our entire offering renegotiated based on the available resource. No one wants this, least of all our members.
“We need immediate Scottish Government intervention to ensure that the Scottish Drug Tariff is bolstered and that there is a financial offer for 2023/24 that enables the continuing success of community pharmacy services in Scotland.”

This contract offer has been rejected so negotiations will continue.