Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) is braced for another "difficult year" of negotiations, chief executive Harry McQuillan has said.
Austerity measures would make it hard for CPS to secure more national pharmacy services in 2015 but he was "optimistic" the sector's role would continue to grow, Mr McQuillan told C+D in an exclusive interview last week (December 10).
2014 had been "tough" for community pharmacy in Scotland, with "service development slowing and cash flow tightening", Mr McQuillan said. But he stressed the services that pharmacies provided were "still well-used and well-liked" by patients and he wanted pharmacy to become the "first port of call" for people with common clinical conditions.
Mr McQuillan described the Scottish government's decision in early November to supply high-cost hepatitis C medicines through community pharmacy as an "exciting development", and he expressed hopes that this and other services would be commisioned nationally.
Mr McQuillan said he hoped to convince cabinet secretary for health, wellbeing and sport Shona Robison MSP of the need to expand the country's national minor ailments scheme to cover the whole population. Currently this service is only available to certain key groups or those with a valid exemption.
George Romanes, owner of Romanes Pharmacies in eastern Scotland, told C+D that he did not believe 2015 would be "any easier than this year".
He was not expecting negotiations to be easy, Mr Romanes said, and added that there was uncertainty about the impact of any further devolution to Scotland.
Mr Romanes didn’t think there had been much progress with Prescription for Excellence, the government's 10-year vision for the sector published in 2013. He was “very glad” Scotland had a national minor ailments service because it put the country “ahead of the game" compared to the rest of the UK, Mr Romanes added.
Fiona McElrea, owner of Whithorn Pharmacy in Wigtownshire, agreed that additional services had made pharmacy more accessible and that 2015 would be tough. Community pharmacy needed to be paid fairly for the additional services, she stressed, because it still dispensed a "massive volume" of prescriptions.