Prescriptions in the Community

This dataset contains details of items dispensed in the community at prescribing location code level for General Practice data and aggregated by NHS Board for other prescriber location types. Items are described at British National Formulary (BNF) item description level. Data is presented for items prescribed in Scotland and reimbursed by the NHS.

The glossary of terms for this publication can be found on the PHS publication page. The date of the next release can be found on our list of forthcoming publications.

NHS Scotland has introduced a new dispensing contractor payment process and system. Data from May 2023 onwards may not be directly comparable to data published previously and should be interpreted with caution.

One area of note is the paid quantity for items with certain formulations may appear significantly higher in data from May 2023 onwards. For example; 1 item of an inhaler may have previously shown a paid quantity of 2 per item. Going forward, this quantity may increase to 240 for 1 item. In these instances, the increased quantity reflects the number of doses or uses within a single item, rather than the quantity of the item itself (e.g. 1 inhaler). Another area of note is that BNF Item Descriptions have changed. Some will not match to those with the same BNF Item code from April 2023 data and earlier.

There is a drop in overall GIC for certain BNF sections from May 2023 onwards. The data reflects the costs reimbursed at the time of processing and this has already been identified as anomalous and referred back to the data processor, NHS National Services Scotland Practitioner and Counter Fraud Services Division.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Source Prescribing Information System (PIS) Database
Author Prescribing Team, Public Health Scotland
Last Updated May 14, 2024, 09:39 (BST)
Created January 17, 2018, 14:34 (GMT)
Contact Address PHS Prescribing Team, Public Health Scotland, Gyle Square, 1 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9EB
Subject NHS Prescriptions
Frequency Monthly
Time frame of data and timeliness 2-3 months in arrears
Coverage General practices, community pharmacies, dental clinics and hospitals within Scotland.
Completeness The Prescribing Information System holds 100% of NHS Scotland prescriptions dispensed within the community and claimed for payment by a pharmacy contractor (i.e. pharmacy or dispensing doctor). It does not include data on prescriptions dispensed but not claimed (likely to be very small) or prescriptions prescribed but not submitted for dispensing by a patient (research has estimated the latter to account for around 6% of all issued prescriptions). It is not possible to determine from payment data how much of the medicine dispensed to patients is actually taken in accordance with dosage instructions. The data does not cover private prescriptions. All practices in Scotland are included in this data where (in the relevant month) a prescription has been dispensed and claimed for payment by a dispensing contractor.
Accuracy The data are sourced from a payment system and routine monthly checks are carried out by Practitioner Services on a random sample of approximately 5% of prescription payments. These check all data captured for payment and the accuracy of the payment calculation and have a target accuracy of 98% which is routinely met. Data that is captured but is not mandatory for payment purposes can be of lower quality; this includes the prescriber code linking a prescription back to the individual prescriber (e.g. GP) and their organisation (e.g. practice or NHS Board). Routine monitoring of unallocated prescriptions is carried out and correct codes are applied. This ensures that unallocated prescriptions account for fewer than 2% of all prescriptions. For remaining unallocated prescriptions, the prescribing NHS Board is assumed to be the same as the dispensing NHS Board. There is a data quality issue with the Quantity measure and the issue surrounds the difference in quantity reporting between Scottish and English dispensing.
Continuity of data The definition of the main measures such as gross ingredient cost and number of items are unchanged over the period data has been available within PIS. Drug products are first licensed as proprietary medicines but generic versions often appear once the original patent expires. This can affect the price and uptake of these drugs. The Scottish Government sets the reimbursement price of generic drug products via the Scottish Drug Tariff which is updated and issued quarterly. NDCVP led to a new method of recording quantities for a small proportion of products in PIS, primarily appliances. The Quantities Mapping file ( was developed in order to standardise the quantities field in the Prescriptions in the Community Open Data from May 2023 onwards.
Concepts and definitions
Disclosure No disclosure controls are applied
Revision statement Data is sourced from monthly pharmacy payments data on an ongoing basis therefore once published there is no routine requirement to revise historical data.
Official statistics designation Experimental Statistics
Relevance and key uses of the statistics
Format csv
Language English

England HSCIC Publications,

Welsh Publications,

Northern Irish Health Publications

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