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

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

July 26, 2021

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

1. NHSE&I Primary Care Bulletin updates – COVID-19: 22nd July round-up for primary care

We may be on the cusp of the school summer holidays, but planning is well underway for the autumn both in terms of the booster COVID-19 vaccine and the annual flu vaccination programme.

The expanded flu vaccination programme will continue this year as part of our wider winter planning when we are likely to see both influenza and COVID-19 in circulation. This means that alongside the usual eligible groups, all 50-64 year olds will again be offered flu vaccination. For the first time the programme is also being expanded into secondary schools up to Year 11.

The tripartite annual flu letter contains all the details on eligible groups. A briefing document about the schools flu vaccination programme is also available.

Further details will follow shortly for both general practice and community pharmacy.

The government has confirmed that Public Health England is updating its guidance to enable essential frontline staff to return to work following a negative PCR if they have been asked to isolate due to potential contact with COVID-19. This applies to all contractor groups in primary care. Further details can be found in this letter and on the Public Health England website.

A discussion will need to take place between the relevant worker and their employer about whether it would be appropriate to make use of these provisions based on the facts of the individual case.

Risk assessment as per the published guidance should be carried out by the senior clinical leadership in that provider (e.g. a practice). We recommend that the risk assessment takes into account the considerations in the letter and any other recommendations or instructions from local public health teams.

Please notify your local commissioner of the outcome of the process unless they inform you this is not required and assume that the DPH must formally authorise each individual’s return to work, unless notified of an alternative sign off process.

This bulletin also contains further information from the Department of Health and Social Care for the clinically extremely vulnerable patients. See below for more details.

Clinically extremely vulnerable patients
Responding to the Government’s further easing of covid related restrictions on Monday 19 July, the DHSC have updated the guidance to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. In the coming days, we expect that DHSC will provide some additional information about advising vulnerable patients who are immunosuppressed and who may not respond as well to the COVID-19 vaccine as others. Evidence is still emerging on relative risk and clinicians will be informed if this results in any changes to the advice for patients.

This letter outlines our continuing expectations across primary care in relation to access, infection prevention and control, and continuing contractual/regulatory arrangements. It also confirms that a number of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that have been in place since March 2020 will be withdrawn.

Pharmacy-led Phase 3 local vaccination services Designation FAQs
Further to the Phase 3 webinar held on Thursday 15 July for general practice and community pharmacy, we have published a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) for community pharmacy to support those considering expressions of interest to take part in the potential COVID-19 booster programme from the autumn. A set of FAQs for general practices will be published very soon.

Transition to new Covid test kits for pharmacies
NHS Test and Trace are moving to new COVID-19 test kits over the coming weeks. Innova COVID19 Test kits which are nose and throat tests will be replaced with Orient Gene tests from week commencing 26 July for a short period of time.

Orient Gene Kits are a rapid nose-only test for COVID-19 for use at home and are different to the Innova tests which are nose and throat tests.

From the 2 August, Orient Gene kits will be replaced by Acon Flex Flow kits which are also nose-only tests.

As we transition between products Pharmacies should continue to work through existing stock levels and are reminded that people collecting for themselves should only be provided with one box of test kits.

Please continue to report test collections every week using the NHSBSA’s Manage your Service (MYS) portal. We thank you for your continued support in delivering this service.

GP and Pharmacy PPE Engagement Panels
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is recruiting panel members for GP and Pharmacy personal protective equipment (PPE) engagement panels to gather feedback on the quality and quantity of PPE provided to meet service needs.

The purpose of the panels is to provide end-user customers the opportunity to discuss their (COVID) PPE provision experiences, in order to improve the service of the DHSC PPE cell. The meeting will take place for one hour on a monthly basis.

If you would like to express an interest in joining, please email with your name, role and panel preference.

Working safely during COVID-19: guidance from Step 4 (Community pharmacy and optometrists)
A new update to the guidance relating to those providing services in retail spaces and those providing close contact services was published yesterday.  This is particularly relevant to community pharmacies and optometrists who will often have both healthcare and retail spaces within their premises. There are a number of priority recommendations, key amongst which is to undertake a risk assessment so that contractors can identify the actions they need to take to ensure that their staff and patients/customers are protected and able to access services. The full guidance, including a list of the priority recommendations, is available for you to review and action as appropriate to your premises.

Patient queries about vaccination records
A service is being established to support people in England with specific queries about their COVID-19 vaccination records. This service is expected to go live in August and NHS Digital will provide more information when available.

In the meantime, you can find answers and support for common data queries on the NHS Digital website.

Letter to help people without an NHS number access the COVID-19 vaccine and register with a GP
An NHS England and NHS Improvement letter tells people without an NHS number, including migrants, how to get the COVID-19 vaccine and if they wish to, how register at a GP practice. Circulated via the Home Office and local housing, homeless and migrant teams; it explains that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and available to every adult living in the UK, free of charge without any immigration checks. The letter also stresses that people do not need to have a GP or an NHS number to get the COVID-19 vaccine and what people need to do in these circumstances. Information is also available on how to record these vaccinations. If you are unable to access Future NHS platform, please email for a copy of the letter.

Contractual Terms of Service
In response to the pandemic, a number of contractual dispensations were put in place to support contractors to maintain core services and meet the needs of their patients in 2020/21. For clarity, pharmacy contractors are reminded that all contractual Terms of Service will need to be completed in 2021/2 included the following:

  • The Community Pharmacy Assurance Framework screening questionnaire will need to be completed via the NHS BSA MYS portal by 24 July 2021.
  • Updating of practice leaflets where and when required
  • The NHSE&I determined national clinical audit, details of this audit for this year are still to be announced, and the contractor chosen clinical audit.
  • The Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire (CPPQ) for 2021/2
  • The annual complaints return for 2021/2
  • The health campaigns still to be announced for 2021/2

Further details on the contractual Terms of Service can be found online.

In addition, contractors are advised that routine provider assurance post payment verification sampling will resume, as will the requirement to return NMS quarterly returns to the NHS Business Services Authority for quarter 2 onwards.


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