Negotiating body Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has said that an additional £20m for the Scottish drug tariff announced this week is not enough to cover community pharmacy’s increased medicines bill.

On Wednesday (31 May), CPS announced that the community pharmacy sector in Scotland would receive an extra £20m over the remainder of the financial year 2023/24 to ease pressures related to medicines price increases on community pharmacy businesses.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government told The Pharmacist: ‘Our priority is to ensure that patients can access their prescription medicines and services such as NHS Pharmacy First Scotland while balancing our financial obligations.

‘To alleviate community pharmacy owners’ concerns regarding the cost of the medicines purchased and dispensed, we have added an additional £20m to the value of the drug tariff in the current financial year.’

But the negotiator said that £20m was not sufficient when the high cost of medicines was taken into account.

‘While £20m appears to be a very big number, it represents only 1.74% of the annual medicine spend for Scotland. We have had reports that costs have increased by over three times this amount’, CPS said in a press statement on Wednesday.

It welcomed the increase in medicines funding to support community pharmacy contractors who were having to borrow money ‘to keep their doors open and support their local community's healthcare needs’.

Discussions between the Scottish Government and CPS about the financial settlement for 2023/24 are currently ongoing, and CPS said that negotiations ‘must continue’ and that ‘a much-improved offer must be forthcoming from Government colleagues to ensure that current service levels are maintained and access to healthcare is provided’.

On Monday (29 May), CPS announced that its members had ‘unanimously rejected’ an offer made by the government last Thursday (25 May).

And it then expressed concerns that an ‘insufficient’ funding package would be imposed on its members, highlighting in particular the significantly increased cost of drugs.

‘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 negotiator said in a statement on Monday.

Following earlier ‘largely collaborative’ discussions, negotiations had ‘departed from the normal process of engagement’, with ‘conversations occurring in areas of Government that CPS has no access to’, the negotiator added.

Rising medicines prices are also affecting other UK nations, with Community Pharmacy England's chief executive Janet Morrison saying in December that record numbers of concessions were 'yet more proof that this system is simply not coping with the current medicines market,’ and Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland issuing a critical drug supply warning in October, saying that the cost of drugs could threaten patient access to medicines.