Skip to main content
Publication, Part of

General Pharmaceutical Services in England 2008/09 - 2018/19 [NS] [PAS]

Publication Date:
Geographic Coverage:
Geographical Granularity:
Country, Regions
Date Range:
01 Apr 2008 to 31 Mar 2019

Notes and definitions

Electronic Prescription Service

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) enables prescribers to send a prescription electronically to a contractor of the patient's choice.

NHS England Regions

From 1 April 2013, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were abolished and NHS England took over their responsibilities with regard to the NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations. There were 13 NHS England Regions from 1 April 2015, which were previously 27 Area Teams from 1 April 2013. From 1 April 2016 there were 14 NHS England regions following the split of Lancashire and Manchester. It is not possible to split the previously combined region to the two new regions.

Prescriptions dispensed

The vast majority of the prescriptions dispensed by community pharmacy and appliance contractors are written by general practitioners, although nurses, dentists, pharmacists, other/non-medical prescribers, and hospital doctors also write prescriptions. This publication excludes prescriptions dispensed by General Practitioners in rural areas (known as dispensing doctors) to those patients who have difficulty accessing a community pharmacy service. Note that these are included in other primary care prescribing data published by NHS Digital.

​​​​​​​Prescription items

A prescription item refers to each medicine prescribed on a prescription form or via an EPS message. Each prescription form may include one or more prescription items; each item may attract one or more dispensing fee.

Monthly items per pharmacy is calculated for each pharmacy by dividing the total items dispensed by the number of months for which the pharmacy operated during the year. The average of these figures is calculated to give the average items per pharmacy.

Dispensing fees

Community pharmacies are paid a fee for dispensing each prescription item. The number of fees paid and the amount paid per prescription item is dependent on the medicine prescribed.

Net Ingredient Cost (NIC)

The basic cost of a drug. It does not take account of discounts, dispensing costs, fees or prescription charges income, so the amount the NHS spent will be slightly different.

Net Ingredient Costs are volatile due to the ways in which costs and prices are negotiated with manufacturers and local prescribing policies such as:

  • The Medicines Margin Survey resulting in adjustments to Category M generic drug reimbursement prices as agreed under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework.
  • An increase in generic dispensing rates (due to patent expiry and loss of exclusivity for a number of leading branded drugs) and the continued efforts to promote generic prescribing where clinically appropriate. 
  • Regulations under the Pharmaceutical Pricing Regulation Scheme (PPRS) or the recent Voluntary Scheme for branded medicines pricing and access; these schemes are agreements between the Department of Health and Social Care and the pharmaceutical industry to place a level of control on the costs of medicines to the NHS and applies to all branded, licensed NHS medicines.
Controlled area

A controlled area is one which a PCTs/NHS England or, on appeal, the Secretary of State has determined as rural in character. The relevant decision makers make a judgement based on the evidence available. PCTs/NHS England that received applications to open a pharmacy in a controlled locality generally consider whether granting such an application would prejudice the proper provision of existing general medical or pharmaceutical services in the locality.

Appliance Use Review (AUR)

Home - AURs carried out in the appliance user's home.

Premises - AURs carried out on the contractor's premises.

Totals and missing data

Individual numbers and percentages may not always add up to the total due to rounding.

A ‘-‘ is used to indicate that data is either unavailable or was not originally collected at source due to changes in regulations or practices at national or regional level.

Zeros denote a value of less than 0.05.

Population data

Mid-year population estimates as produced and owned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Data is based on population data from the most recent census. The database contains national-level data for the four countries of the UK and breakdowns for England & Wales by Health Authorities and Primary Care Organisations, Strategic Health Authorities and Local Authority Regions & Districts. Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), Area Teams and Regions were added in 2011. 

Category M Scheme

An arrangement where the net ingredient cost for selected generic formulations is controlled, with the aim of reducing costs overall, and which are calculated to reflect market forces while ensuring delivery of pharmacy purchase profit income (margin) as part of the funding arrangements for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF).  The drugs subject to these arrangements are classified as Category M in Part VIII of the Drug Tariff. The majority of these formulations have fallen in price, although some formulations have increased in price.

Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS)

The PPRS was a voluntary agreement made between the DHSC and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry; it was replaced in 2019 by the Voluntary scheme for branded medicines pricing and access. The schemes place some control on the costs of medicines to the NHS and apply to all branded, licensed NHS medicines.

Last edited: 5 November 2019 10:46 am