Around 4,000 pharmacists work in Scotland across hospitals and in the community.

Education and Training

Pharmacists are highly trained clinical experts in the use of medicines. They undertake a five year intensive pre-registration degree programme which includes one year of clinical practice as well as post-graduate continued professional development.

The Scottish Government works closely with university Schools of Pharmacy, the General Pharmaceutical Council, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (Scotland), NHS Education for Scotland and NHS Boards to ensure that education and training remains fit for a modern NHS in Scotland. 

Provision of NHS Pharmaceutical Care in the Community

Pharmacists located throughout our communities, from rural areas to deprived inner-city areas, provide pharmaceutical care on behalf of NHS Scotland.

Scottish Government policy remains that, wherever possible, people across Scotland should have access to NHS pharmaceutical care.

There are currently around 1,200 retail pharmacies throughout Scotland providing a range of services on behalf of the NHS.

As well as dispensing prescriptions, four new NHS pharmaceutical care services have been gradually introduced since 2006. These include:

  • Minor Ailment Service (MAS)
  • Public Health Service (PHS)
  • Acute Medication Service (AMS) and
  • Chronic Medication Service (CMS).    

These new services involve pharmacists in the community more in the provision of direct patient-centered care as part of the wider primary care team.

The Scottish Government is committed to making the best use of pharmacists within the NHS and utilising their full clinical abilities. The role which pharmacists play in contributing to the healthcare of patients in the community is currently being reviewed as a further step towards enhancing their involvement in healthcare.

The Review of NHS Pharmaceutical Care of Patients in the Community has now reported to the Scottish Government and is being considered in the context of wider Healthcare policy. 

Community Pharmacy Contract Arrangements

The provision of NHS Pharmaceutical Services is governed by Statute, as set out in the in the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

NHS Pharmaceutical Services are provided under NHS arrangements with local and high street retail pharmacies. These arrangements are managed by the local NHS Board who is responsible for ensuring the communities it serves has appropriate access to NHS Pharmaceutical Services.

Funding of these arrangements is as required by the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 and laid down in the Scottish Drug Tariff, and are under constant development.

The NHSScotland Community Pharmacy website includes further information on recent developments (see related websites).

Dispensing GP Practices

Under the terms of National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 Health Boards can instruct general medical practitioners to dispense medication to patients in areas where patients would have serious difficulty in having their prescribed medicines dispensed.

There are currently around 130 dispensing GP practices in Scotland. Most are located in the Highlands and Islands, with many others located in Dumfries and Galloway, Grampian, and the Borders. They account for around 12 per cent of GP practices in Scotland and around three per cent of patients.

Prescribing Statistics

The Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS Services Scotland regularly publish a range of statistics on prescribing and dispensing in Scotland for the purpose of monitoring and reporting community prescribing activity. These are based on details of NHS prescriptions dispensed in the community and are published on its own website (see related websites).  

All requests for detailed information should be addressed to ISD.