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PDA seeks tripartite discussion around all aspect of community pharmacy in Scotland

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The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has sought a tripartite discussion on the issue of negotiation between the Scottish government and Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), with an aim to see an agreement that benefits patients, taxpayers and health professionals.

Highlighting the issues faced by the sector in Scotland, PDA calls on Michael Matheson, Scotland’s new Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, to agree that within the spirit of the Fair Work Convention, there should be tripartite discussions around all aspects of community pharmacy provision.

“Discussions must involve the government on behalf of NHS Scotland, CPS on behalf of the owners, and the PDA as the pharmacists’ representative,” it said. 

The association believes that there is a need for discussion and decision-making that listens to and balances the rights and responsibilities of both employers and workers, to generate benefits for individuals, organisations, and society.

It added: “Even though Scotland provides the most generous community pharmacy settlement in the UK, recent reports suggest it is not enough for pharmacy owners with CPS’s rejection of the latest funding proposal in May. Though the Scottish government found an extra £20M to ease pressures related to medicines price increases, an overall agreement has still not been reached.”

“The UK-wide chains may be doing less well in the parts of their networks covered by the Westminster government’s contract, but the taxpayers and government of Scotland need to be given reassurance that they are in no way subsidising funding shortfalls in England’s pharmacy contract.”

Recently, when LloydsPharmacy’s Scotland branches recently came on the market, they appear to have been sold exclusively to existing contractors, including the UK-wide multiple, Rowlands Pharmacy, who have acquired 30 of them. Other small and medium-sized Scottish pharmacy chains have apparently been able to double in size overnight by acquiring branches.

PDA said: “Despite pharmacy owners seemingly being able to invest and grow their businesses, the scale of extra government funding provided to the pharmacy owners has not trickled down to their employee pharmacists or other staff, whose wages have stagnated for the last 15 years. In many cases neither has it been reflected in investment in staffing levels, premises, or training.”

It also stated: “The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) who regulates Scotland’s pharmacies continues to report unsuitable and sub-standard premises, and pharmacists are often told to undertake training unpaid, during non-working hours.

Pharmacies closing their doors for all, or part of a day has also been an issue in Scotland over the last few years. 

The PDA has sought to highlight this problem as it is a matter of public interest and patient safety. Often excused by claims of a lack of locums or shortages of pharmacists, this ignores the increase in the number of GPhC registered pharmacists from 41,000 to over 60,000 in the decade to 2021. Pharmacists are, however, deterred from working in pharmacies that are understaffed and offer poor working conditions.

The association has raised all these concerns and more with ministers and civil servants, yet the government has fixed dialogue exclusively with the pharmacy owners via their representatives at CPS, excluding the representatives of individual pharmacists. It believes that this runs contrary to the Scottish government’s commitments enshrined in the Fair Work Convention.

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