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There are over 10,000 pharmacies in England providing a range of services in addition to the dispensing of prescriptions. Over 886 million prescriptions were dispensed in England in 2009 at a cost of over £8.5 billion. Additionally, the NHS spends about £3.8 billion on medicines used in hospitals.

Publications

Antibacterial Primary Care Prescribing Indicators
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Annual report summarising antibacterial use in primary care in Scotland.
Community Pharmacy Services in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This Statistical Release includes data on the number of pharmacies, prescriptions dispensed and pharmaceutical services offered in Wales. (Previously known as Pharmacuetical Services in Wales)
General Pharmaceutical Services
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Information about services provided by community pharmacies in England including dispensing of NHS prescriptions over 10 years.
General and Personal Medical Services
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
GPs by organisation, headcount, fte, type, age, gender etc
General and Personal Medical Services, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
GPs by organisation, headcount, fte, type, age, gender etc
Hospital Prescribing, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
This bulletin reports on use of medicines in primary care, in hospitals and those prescribed in hospitals, but dispensed in the community.
NHS Hospital and Community Health Services
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
NHS hospital & community staff numbers by organisation, headcount, fte, area of work, age, gender etc
NHS Hospital and Community Health Services: Medical and Dental staff, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
NHS hospital & community staff numbers in the medical & dental professions by organisation, headcount, fte, area of work, age, gender etc
NHS Hospital and Community Health Services: Non-medical staff, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
NHS hospital & community staff numbers in the non-medical professions by organisation, headcount, fte, area of work, age, gender etc
NHS Scotland Prescribing Statistics
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
A range of statistics that will vary each quarter, also includes data updated annually. Until December 2011 this publication was split as individual titles -Dispenser renumeration -Drugs indicated in the treatment of obesity -Drugs used rheumatic diseases and gout -Medicines used in mental health -Minor ailments service -Prescribing of smoking cessation interventions -Prescription charge analysis (abolished on the 1st April 2011) -Prescription cost analysis
Pharmaceutical Services in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This Statistical Release presents data on pharmaceutical services in Wales
Prescribing Compliance
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
For a sample of 145 practices who contribute data to the THIN database the number of prescriptions they issued (as recorded on their computer systems) was compared with the number dispensed (using data from the NHS BSA) for the years 2004 to 2008. As well as the overall figure, comparisons were made for particular therapeutic areas.
Prescribing Statistics
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
ISD maintains a detailed database of all NHS prescriptions dispensed in the community in Scotland. The information is supplied to ISD by Practitioner Services Division (PSD) of National Services Scotland.
Prescribing Statistics - Dispenser Remuneration
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
ISD maintains a detailed database of all NHS prescriptions dispensed in the community in Scotland. The information is supplied to ISD by Practitioner Services Division (PSD) of National Services Scotland. The Prescribing Statistics - Dispenser Remuneration is a quarterly update of monthly dispensing contractors remuneration and reimbursement, with annual updates. Prior to September 2009 this publication was released as part of an overall "Prescribing Statistics" publication. It was also temporarily released from March 2009 - June 2009 under the title "Dispensing Contractors Remuneration".
Prescribing Statistics - Drugs indicated in the treatment of obesity
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Part of Therapeutic Areas and includes number of items, GIC and Defined Daily Doses, for drugs listed in BNF section 4.5, by NHS Board. Prior to March 2010 this publication was released as part of an overall "Prescribing Statistics" publication.
Prescribing Statistics - Drugs used in rheumatic diseases and gout
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Part of Therapeutic Areas and includes number of items, GIC and Defined Daily Doses, for drugs listed in BNF section 10.1, by NHS Board. Prior to March 2010 this publication was released as part of an overall "Prescribing Statistics" publication.
Prescribing Statistics - Medicines used in Mental Health
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Part of Therapeutic Areas and includes number of items, GIC and Defined Daily Doses, for drugs listed in BNF section 4.5, by NHS Board. Prior to December 2009 this publication was released as part of an overall "Prescribing Statistics" publication.
Prescribing Statistics - Prescribing of smoking cessation interventions
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Part of Therapeutic Areas and includes number of items, GIC and Defined Daily Doses, for drugs listed in BNF section 4.10 for smoking cessation, by NHS Board. Prior to March 2010 this publication was released as part of an overall "Prescribing Statistics" publication.
Prescribing Statistics - Prescription Cost Analysis
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
The PCA is the number of items and cost by BNF chapter, section, subsection, chemical name and individual preparation, also published is dispensing practices, community pharmacies, essential small pharmacies, generic prescribing, nurse prescribing, top 10 drugs, prescribing volume and prescribing costs and Minor Ailment Service. Prior to September 2010 this publication was released as part of an overall "Prescribing Statistics" publication.
Prescribing for diabetes in England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
An analysis of expenditure, volume and trends on prescribing for diabetes in England.
Prescription Cost Analysis, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Prescription items dispensed in the community in England.
Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Prescriptions dispensed in community by community pharmacists, appliance contractors and dispensing doctors.
Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Prescriptions dispensed in community by community pharmacists, appliance contractors and dispensing doctors.
Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community, Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Presents a summary of prescriptions dispensed in the community.
Primary Care Trust Prescribing Data
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Prescribing by Primary Care Trust; items and cost at BNF section level.
Quarterly Prescription Cost Analysis, England
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Prescription items dispensed in the community in England
Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group (SAPG) Report on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Humans
Department: ISD Scotland (part of NHS National Services Scotland)
Annual report summarising antimicrobial use and resistance in humans in Scotland
Sickness Absence Rates in the NHS
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Monthly Sickness Absence Rates in the English NHS
Statistics from the Northern Ireland Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme
Department: Health, Social Service and Public Safety (Northern Ireland)
This bulletin summarises information on people visiting the Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme and relates to the year ending 31 March.
Survey of Informal Carers in Households
Department: Health and Social Care Information Centre
Prevalence of caring, commitments, use of services and the health and well being of carers themselves

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Overview

Prescribing is the most common intervention in the NHS. Information on the different drugs dispensed is categorised by the classification used by the British National Formulary.

The NHS Information Centre also collect information from Primary Care Trusts about pharmacies such as the additional services they provide, including Medicine Use Reviews.

The NHS Information Centre receives data from a commercial company that collects data from most hospital pharmacies. Since many drugs are used only or mainly in hospitals, this source provides important information, particularly on cancer drugs.

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Technical Data

The normal process by which a patient receives a medicine is:

  • the patient consults a doctor

  • the doctor gives the patient a prescription (a form known as an FP10)

  • the patient takes the prescription to a community pharmacist

  • the pharmacist dispenses the prescription 

  • the pharmacist sends the prescription to NHS Prescription Services, and then

  • the NHS Prescription Services price the prescription and calculate the amount due to the pharmacist as reimbursement for the cost of the medicine and the appropriate dispensing fee

Statistics on prescriptions are based on the data collected by the NHS Prescription Services. The basic measures are the number of items, the physical quantity, the cost and the proportion prescribed by generic rather than brand name. Patients who wish to claim exemption from the prescription charge need to complete the back of the prescription form.

There are variations on this process. For example, the patient may request a repeat prescription and so receive a prescription without seeing the doctor. The prescription may be for a specialist item and the patient may send the prescription to an appliance contractor who then returns the form to the NHS Prescription Services.

Patients may also receive medicines by processes that do not generate a prescription. Such scenarios include:

  • family planning clinics may supply contraception to a patient without using a prescription

  • smoking cessation clinics may also supply directly

  • pharmacists can supply some medicines to patients under a Patient Group Direction which does not require a prescription, and 

  • nurses working in the community may supply dressings to patients

In each of these cases no prescription is generated and the NHS Prescription Services data will not hold any information.

The NHS Information Centre collect data directly from Primary Care Trusts on applications to open pharmacies and how many pharmacies provide various enhanced services (these are over and above dispensing prescriptions). This is combined with other information from the NHS Prescription Services to produce an annual bulletin on pharmacies.

The company IMSHealth collect data from pharmacies in most of the hospitals in England. They price the medicines issued using the Drug Tariff or other price lists but it needs to be kept in mind that this is not necessarily what the hospital paid as many hospitals negotiate a discount, either nationally or locally, on the price. IMSHealth provide an extract of this dataset to the NHS Information Centre which holds national data (estimated from the sample) and actual data for each Strategic Health Authority. There is no data at trust or Primary Care Trust level. The release of data from this extract is controlled by a contract between the Secretary of State for Health and IMSHealth which protects the confidentiality of the manufacturers. The restrictions are spelt out in the publication by the Information Centre which combines this information with the figures obtained from the NHS Prescription Services on prescriptions.

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Glossary

  • Appliance Contractor

    Some specialised items are dispensed by companies known as appliance contractors; often the prescription will be sent by post and the item sent by post or delivered by one of the company’s staff.

  • FP10

    The reference number of the most commonly used prescription form.

  • Generic name

    When drugs are first marketed they have a chemical name and a brand name; it is good practice to use the chemical or generic name.

  • Issue

    When a hospital pharmacy dispenses medicine this is known as an issue.

  • Item

    A single entry on a prescription form is termed an item so a form may contain several items.

  • NHS Prescription Services

    NHS Prescription Services; the division of the NHS Business Services Authority who process prescriptions and reimburse dispensers.

  • NIC

    Net Ingredient Cost; this is the cost of a medicine excluding any discount, container cost, VAT or dispensing fee (England and Wales only).

  • PCT

    Primary Care Trust; there are 152 PCTs in England and each is responsible for patient care within their area.

  • SHA

    Strategic Health Authority; since April 2002, PCTs have taken control of local health care while strategic Health Authorities monitor performance and standards.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

The NHS Information Centre

Email: enquiries@ic.nhs.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 845 300 6016

1 Trevelyan Square, Boar Lane Leeds LS1 6AE

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