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To get further initial information about pharmacy and medicines policy please contact Irene Fazakerley:

0131 244 2528



Pharmacy and Medicines

The Scottish Government is committed to improving the quality of patient care through effective and efficient NHS pharmaceutical care provided in the community and in hospital, and to ensure the safe, effective and efficient use of medicines.

The Scottish Government does this through:

  • Its work with NHS Boards to put in place arrangements to provide NHS pharmaceutical care for the people of Scotland
  • Working closely with NHS Boards, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), other UK Health Departments, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Home Office to ensure the safety of medicines and their therapeutic value and benefit to patients and the tax payer.

Our policies centre on promoting a healthier Scotland, and delivering NHS pharmaceutical care based on the three quality ambitions set out in the Healthcare Quality Strategy for NHSScotland (May 2010). That is, care that is person-centered, safe and effective to every person every time.


Medicines are the most frequently used intervention in healthcare. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that everyone can access cost effective medicines they need and make choices about managing and improving their health. The abolition of prescription charges in April 2011 is a key part of this commitment.

In primary care, for example, there are around 90 million prescriptions dispensed each year with an annual drugs bill of approximately £1 billion (some 10 per cent of the annual healthcare budget). A significant proportion of all GP prescriptions in primary care are for the treatment of long term conditions.

Effective Use of Medicines

The Scottish Government is working with NHS Boards, health care professionals and other partners to ensure the efficient and cost-effective use of medicines. More effective medicines use can help:

  • Deliver better care outcomes for patients
  • Reduce the incidence of avoidable hospital admissions
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of treatment

The use of real world data has been widely heralded as key to improving patient outcomes, delivering more efficient healthcare and driving developments in clinical research and development. In 2017, a Data Scoping Taskforce was set up to determine the digital capabilities to utilise real world health data to support the assessment and introduction of new medicines, together with ensuring the on-going safe, effective use of established medicines. The Data Scoping Taskforce Report published in 2018 proposes five actions to help build Scotland’s health data capabilities. Improving Scotland’s health data capabilities is a key objective in improving outcomes for patients and the Scottish Government, with key stakeholders, is currently considering the five actions proposed by the Taskforce and next steps in building Scotland’s health data capabilities.

Improving adherence in medicine taking is an important part of effective medicines use - that is, supporting the patient with the right level of information and advice in taking his/her medicine as prescribed by a doctor or other trained healthcare prescribers (such as a pharmacist or specialist nurse).

Improving adherence in medicine taking is an objective common to a range of healthcare professionals, and aims to improve health outcomes as well as reduce waste in prescribed medicines.

For further information about pharmacy and medicines in Scotland please visit our other web pages using the related links.