COVID-19: This week’s updates for community pharmacies (1)

COVID-19: This week’s updates for community pharmacies (1)

September 28, 2020

Latest news, information and guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) for primary care teams.

Please read the following important updates by reading the individual NHSE&I Primary Care Bulletin COVID-19 updates below:

1. 10th September round-up for primary care

Risk assessments
We recognise the ongoing efforts across primary care to offer and complete risk assessments for staff, ensuring particularly BAME and other ‘at risk’ groups are kept safe. Where assessments have not yet been completed, we strongly encourage these reviews to be conducted rapidly.

Community pharmacy staff flu vaccination
To help protect community pharmacy teams from seasonal flu and ongoing Covid-19 risks, NHS England and NHS Improvement is asking employers to ensure that all their staff, including locums, are vaccinated as soon as possible. The national flu immunisation programme letter of 5 August 2020 outlined how people eligible for free flu vaccination will be offered this through local NHS arrangements.

Community pharmacy employers are asked to encourage and enable staff who are eligible for a free flu jab to take this up, and to make sure all other members of their teams are also vaccinated. This will meet their responsibility to protect their staff and patients and support the resilience of the health and care system. It is particularly important to ensure that staff in vulnerable groups, such as Black and Ethnic Minority employees, are adequately protected this winter.

The public marketing campaign to support the flu vaccination programme is due to commence in October. Vaccinations will be offered to those aged 50-64 in November and December.

The annual service specification and supporting patient group direction for the Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Service was published on 28 August 2020. Further updates will be shared in due course.

NICE quality standards for community pharmacy
New National Institute for Health and Care Excellence quality standards for community pharmacies were issued on 28 August 2020, setting out how they can support the health of the local population, what high quality care looks like and priority areas for the improvement of services. These include:

  • offering advice and education to people with a long-term health condition or those looking for support to improve their health and wellbeing
  • raising awareness of the health and wellbeing expertise and services available from community pharmacy teams
  • developing and using local referral pathways and information-sharing practices
  • using their skills and knowledge to support people from underserved groups.

Quality standards are intended to help providers to improve the quality of care they provide to patients and are more important than even during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for those risk factors that make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The standards are also important, as achieving Healthy Living Pharmacy Level 1 status will become an essential service requirement for all community pharmacies later this financial year.

GPhC registration assessment to move online
The General Pharmaceutical Council has updated details on its website for provisionally registered pharmacists due to take the registration assessment. It is currently carrying out a procurement exercise to identify a provider to deliver an online registration assessment in late 2020 to early 2021 and will share the date and details on the new format as soon as possible. Trainees and provisional registrants will be given a minimum of two months’ notice of the date for the online assessment in order to prepare.How to communicate better with people with hearing loss
COVID-19 poses a unique challenge for health and social care professionals when talking to someone with hearing loss. Here are some important tips to help you communicate effectively.

2. 18th September round-up for primary care

Planning ahead for winter in community pharmacy
As we plan ahead for winter, community pharmacy must remain vigilant and safe regarding COVID-19 and maintain its focus on infection control and prevention. In order to be prepared, we encourage all pharmacies to sign up for the national PPE portal, if not done so already, as an important emergency supply route. Pharmacies will need to do this via their original invitation email.

This winter pharmacies will need to take part in two health campaigns – the public facing campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated against flu begins in early October.

The national flu campaign resources will be delivered to all pharmacies in early October. Please register here to download any additional resources.

Flu vaccination funding for community pharmacy 
NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have agreed the funding for the Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service in 2020/2021.

The fee per vaccination remains at £9.58, and for this year only:

  • £0.50 per vaccination will be paid from CPCF funds
  • up to £1m of medicines margin can be retained for vaccinations administered above the number of a normal year. This is in addition to the allowed £800m medicines margin under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework.

NHS England and NHS Improvement is also making additional funding available which will need to be pre-authorised by NHS England and NHS Improvement regional teams to support venue hire and cold storage costs for contractors who are planning off-site vaccinations. Further details are available on the NHS Business Services Authority website as part of the Drug Tariff.

3. 24th September round-up for primary care

As we face a second wave of the pandemic, we will increase the frequency of these bulletins to twice a week from the first week of October, in order to make sure we can share information in a timely and supportive way.

Free PPE extended to primary care
Through our conversations with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) the department have notified the NHS that the forthcoming arrangements for providing free personal protective equipment (PPE) to social care will be extended to primary care.

DHSC will publish their PPE strategy next week, which will provide full details of the arrangements for primary care.

In preparation, we encourage all NHS primary care providers, including community pharmacy, to ensure they have registered on the PPE portal in order to receive PPE supplies free of charge. Further information on the portal supply can be found on the DHSC guidance page. If providers have any queries or have not received an email invitation, please contact the DHSC PPE portal customer services at: 0800 876 6802.

The Government advice on shielding guidance
We’re aware of some confusion regarding the current status of the Government shielding guidance. Specifically, queries from the public about whether shielding guidance is currently in place in their area are increasing.

To confirm:

  • People who were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to coronavirus were advised to ‘shield’ during the first wave of the pandemic.
  • Shielding advice was lifted in most parts of the country on 1 August 2020.  This means the vast majority of people considered CEV are no longer being advised to shield.
  • There are two specific exceptions to this in Leicester City and North East Blackburn.Shielding advice is still in place in these areas but will be lifted from 5 October.
  • Therefore, unless Government policy changes again, from 5 October no-one in England will be advised to shield.
  • Areas that are subject to local lockdown restrictions are not automatically subject to shielding guidance; the decision to introduce shielding advice is currently made on a case by case basis by the UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) alongside the local Director of Public Health (DPH).
  • If shielding guidance is re-introduced in a particular area, people considered clinically extremely vulnerable, as well as local health system colleagues, will be informed of the changes.

GP Referral to Community Pharmacist Consultation Service to be made available across England
GP practices across England will be able to refer patients with minor illnesses asking for a GP appointment for a same day consultation with a community pharmacist, as part of a new referral pathway to the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS). Findings from a pilot in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area saw thousands of patients using the service.

Dr James Case, GP at Concord Medical Centre, Bristol, says: “The community pharmacist consultation service is a real opportunity to help practices reduce our daily demand and manage our more complex patients, which is very valuable for us.”

The NHS CPCS service specification and toolkit will be refreshed to include GP referrals and will be published in due course. PCNs are encouraged to implement the service as part of the Structured Medication and Medicines Optimisation Service Specification and we will commission this service from pharmacies from across England from November. General practice and pharmacy teams should work together on local arrangements for referral of minor illnesses to pharmacy.

NHS COVID-19 app launches today
W The new NHS COVID-19 app launches to the public today. It is the fastest way to see if you are at risk from coronavirus. Because the faster you know, the quicker you can alert and protect your loved ones and community. It has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts, and QR venue check-in. The app does this while protecting a user’s anonymity. Nobody, including the government, will know who or where a particular user is. The NHS COVID-19 app is the official contact tracing app for England and Wales and it is free.

Pharmacy Quality Scheme Part 2 2020/21 published
Guidance to support contractors taking part in Part 2 of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS)sets out how community pharmacy can be rewarded for providing high quality care and better health outcomes for patients as part of primary care networks.

This year’s PQS has been developed to incentivise quality improvement in areas that support the COVID-19 response including collaborating across primary care networks (PCNs) on flu vaccination of over-65s and business continuity plans, training staff in infection prevention and control, and carrying out individual COVID-19 risk assessments for all staff members.

Key prevention measures, such as recognising patients with red flag conditions such as sepsis or those at risk from suicide, are also included, as well as supporting patients to manage their weight.

Contractors are asked to complete the Part 1 checklist of the PQS as soon as possible, ensuring adaptations have been implemented to ensure the pharmacy is COVID-19 secure and patients and staff are protected. This is a gateway requirement for Part 2.

Video consultations given the go ahead
We recently announced that community pharmacies now need to obtain a patient’s verbal consent and keep a record, for carrying out flu vaccinations, Medicines Use Reviews (MUR), the New Medicine Service (NMS) and Appliance Use Reviews (AUR). In addition, MURs, the NMS and AURs (where suitable) may now be provided by phone or video consultation, without having to seek prior approval from NHS England and NHS Improvement. This should only happen where it is clinically appropriate and where the conversation cannot be overheard by others. We’re also working on possible further flexibilities such as enabling provision of remote consultations from other premises.

Medicines delivery service commissioned in local outbreak areas
To support patients who have been advised to continue to follow previous government shielding advice in specific local COVID-19 outbreak areas, the Community Pharmacy Home Delivery Service and the Dispensing Doctor Home Delivery Service has been commissioned from 24 September 2020, for patients who live in the following local outbreak areas:

  • Eight wards within North East Blackburn outlined here until 5 October.
  • Leicester City as outlined here until 5 October.


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