Pharmacists warn vital services face cuts due to rising costs

The Community Pharmacy Scotland Board describes the Scottish Government's financial package as 'derisory'.

Pharmacists are warning they will have to cut services unless their rising costs are met by the Scottish Government.

The Community Pharmacy Scotland Board unanimously rejected a financial package from the Scottish Government last week on behalf of Scotland’s 1,259 pharmacies.

It described the offer for the 2023/24 financial year as “derisory”.

The organisation is looking for an uplift to its regular funding in line with inflation, but says the current offer is “well short” of what is needed.

Fresh talks are due to take place on Tuesday.

As well as rising fuel and energy costs, pharmacies are having to deal with a significant increase in the price of medicines.

However, unlike other businesses, they can not pass these increases on to customers.

They say their NHS income is barely covering wholesaler bills, with some members struggling to stay afloat.

In some cases, pharmacy owners are having to supply them at a loss to maintain continuity of care for patients

Mike Embrey

Mike Embrey, a director at Right Medicine Pharmacy, told STV News, “We will have to cut services if our increasing costs are not met by the Scottish Government.

“That could mean no delivery service, it could mean dosette boxes being cut, it could mean reduced opening hours.

“We have plenty of patients who we have to help manage their medicines because they are simply unable to do it themselves, and if we can no longer help them then we will have vulnerable people struggling and not getting the help they need with their medicines.”

Pharmacies supply around nine million prescriptions each month.

Since its launch in July 2020, they have also delivered more than five million NHS Pharmacy First Scotland consultations.

However, they are under threat if there is no funding increase.

Professor Harry McQuillan

Professor Harry McQuillan, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland, said, “We have had calls into the office that pharmacy owners are having to borrow to meet their costs, so that is a thing we have never had to face before.

“That is not sustainable. If we don’t have those rising costs met by a reasonable offer from the Scottish Government then we will have to look at how things could be reduced to make sure our cost base is managed.”

Scottish Conservatives health spokesperson Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “We need pharmacists not only to deliver medication but to do extra work that we asking them to do – look after urine infections, make sure that we are able to do smoking cessation and pharmacies are unable to do that given the derisory offer the Scottish Government has given them.

“They will simply go out of business, and by going out of business it is people in rural and deprived areas that will suffer the most.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Community pharmacies are a key point of access to NHS healthcare, providing the Right Care in the Right Place from a highly skilled team of healthcare professionals and support staff.  

“Discussions are ongoing with Community Pharmacy Scotland on the financial settlement for 2023/24, and it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage. 

“Our priority is to ensure that patients are able to access their prescription medicines and services such as NHS Pharmacy First Scotland while balancing our financial obligations.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code