Scotland’s network of community pharmacies is now facing a severe financial crisis, prompting urgent calls from Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) for improved government support.
Negotiations between pharmacy owners and the Scottish Government have reached an impasse, as the offers made thus far have fallen far short of what is needed to keep pharmacies operational and maintain vital support for local communities.
Negotiations between pharmacy owners and the Scottish Government have been ongoing since September 2022. However, the two offers presented by the government have been unanimously rejected by members, as they fell far short of the necessary requirements. While the Scottish Government has injected £20 million into the network as a form of support, this amount represents a mere 1.18% of the annual medicines spend in Scotland. Unfortunately, medicine costs alone have risen three times more than this amount, rendering the relief provided insufficient.
Commenting on the escalating situation CPS representatives commented:
“Today, as pharmacy owners are increasingly turning to borrowing to keep their doors open, CPS are sounding the alarm.
“Without an immediate and much-improved pay offer from Scottish Government, our members will be forced to control costs by cutting services to their patients – something no pharmacy owner wants to do. It is likely that individual businesses will have to review free delivery services and medicines management support that helps prop up a struggling social care system.
“Critically, we expect that pharmacies will be driven to reducing their opening hours in efforts to stay afloat – meaning a further reduction in access to healthcare for patients in need.
“At a national level, with no sign of Ministers making a serious offer, negotiations are likely to turn to discussing what the Scottish Government can no longer afford. The NHS Pharmacy First Service (formerly the Minor Ailments Scheme) provides free consultations, advice and treatment to the people of Scotland, without the need for an appointment.
“This is a world-leading service that is used millions of times each year, keeping pressure away from GPs and Emergency departments, but it is under pressure itself and unless properly funded along with our other national services, it may have to be negotiated out of our contract.
“We will fight to avoid this outcome, but ultimately it is Scottish Ministers who are in control of what care the people of Scotland can access from their pharmacies, and only an improved offer will secure the bright future we had planned for ‘Pharmacy First’.”
“The difference for pharmacy businesses is that they can’t pass on these costs to the customer as most of their income comes from the NHS and patient access to services is, quite rightly, free at the point of delivery. This means that it is only the Scottish Government who can step in to support pharmacy owners.
“In particular, the medicines we buy on behalf of the NHS to fill prescriptions for patients are costing us more than they ever have. NHS income is barely covering the 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 make sure they are caring for their patients. We know that some pharmacy owners are having to take loans out just to pay the bills – a situation that cannot continue.
“We have been in negotiations with Government colleagues since September 2022, but the two late offers that have been put on the table so far fell far short of what is required and were unanimously rejected by our members. Whilst negotiations continue, the Scottish Government has agreed to inject £20 million (just 1.18% of the annual medicines spend in Scotland) of support into the network over the course of this year. Whilst this is welcome, it will only provide limited relief, as medicines costs alone have gone up by at least three times this much.”