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Chamber and committees

Question reference: S6W-03939

  • Asked by: Maurice Golden, MSP for North East Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Date lodged: 25 October 2021
  • Current status: Answered by Michael Matheson on 3 November 2021


To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S6W-03394 by Michael Matheson on 19 October 2021, whether it will provide a breakdown of the source control measures that (a) are currently being used and (b) will be used in future.


As previously stated, pharmaceuticals are considered ‘contaminants of emerging concern’, so research and monitoring to understand trends in the level and impact of pharmaceuticals in the environment - and form an evidence base for future policy including increasing public awareness - is still in the development phase.

In terms of current activity, to address incorrect disposal, members of the public are encouraged to always bring unused medications to their community pharmacy, where they will be collected and safely disposed of by NHSScotland. All community pharmacies offer this service.

From 2022 the “Keep Antibiotics Working” public awareness campaign (which runs in November-December each year to coincide with World Antibiotic Awareness Week) will be redesigned to emphasise the multi-sectoral approach to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance, including how important it is to avoid the incorrect disposal of pharmaceuticals.

SEPA and Scottish Water are members of the One Health Breakthrough Partnership (OHBP), supported by Scottish Government, which is committed to minimising the presence and concentrations of human medicines in the environment through a variety of interventions in medicines use and disposal to prevent them from reaching the water system. OHBP has supported work to produce a baseline assessment of levels of pharmaceuticals in Scotland’s water environment (see ) and partners plan to use this work a starting point to develop a visualisation tool for pharmaceuticals in the water environment that will also include information on levels and patterns of medicine prescribing in Scotland.

OHBP are also working on the following areas with NHS Highland for future source control applications:

1. establishing a waste amnesty scheme and a pharmaceuticals in the environment education campaign around inappropriate medicine disposal;

2. scoping social prescribing initiatives in line with the Realistic Medicine agenda; and

3. informing development of the Single National Formulary. This activity aims to advocate sustainable alternatives to pharmaceutical prescribing and avoid the use of the most eco-toxicologically relevant medicines.