Contractor Update: PQS deadline extension and further measures

PSNC has reached agreement with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a number of measures to help ease the immediate pressures on community pharmacies. 

Recognising the current challenges being experienced by pharmacies and the contribution of the pharmacy workforce to the COVID-19 vaccination programme, it has been agreed that:  

  • There will be an extension to the deadline for meeting the requirements of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme in line with the arrangements last year;  
  • Contractors will not be required to complete the Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire for 2021/2022; 
  • The requirement for pharmacy teams to complete a national audit (intended to be on valproate) in 2021/22 will be waived; and 
  • The requirement for pharmacy teams to complete a contractor-chosen clinical audit in 2021/22 will be waived.  

Under the agreement, pharmacies will still need to make the PQS declaration during the February window, but as last year, this will be a claim for work to be evidenced by 30th June 2022. Further details will shortly be published as a Drug Tariff determination on the NHSBSA website with similar wording to last year, in 2020-21, which is set out below.* 

PSNC, NHSE&I and DHSC have also agreed to keep the situation under ongoing review.   

The agreed measures are not all that PSNC requested, but they are the lion’s share, and we are pleased that NHSE&I and DHSC have committed to keeping the situation under review.  

Holiday Openings: Boxing Day and New Year’s Day 

Separately, PSNC has also been seeking flexibility from NHSE&I about holiday openings this year, but NHSE&I have been keen to ensure that pharmacies remain open for their contracted hours during the holiday period given the ongoing impact of the COVID booster campaign on primary care, and to maintain patient access. 

NHSE&I has informed PSNC that in specific areas, a number of contractors are seeking to close due to pandemic and workforce pressures on two specific days, Boxing Day (Sunday 26th December 2021) and New Year’s Day (Saturday 1st January 2022). These two days are not Bank Holidays this year, but normal contractual days.  

NHSE&I have agreed that contractors in an area may agree with NHSE&I a pharmacy opening plan for pharmacies in that area, which ensures adequate patient access to pharmaceutical services; recognising the pressures contractors are under. This applies to Boxing Day and New Year’s Day only. Applications for such plans will be considered by NHSE&I regional teams, which will be keen to ensure fairness between contractors. They are intended for specific areas where there are known difficulties finding a pharmacist for the pharmacy, such as certain rural areas, not as a general invitation to all contractors. 

There is no agreed definition of an area, so in theory this could allow an arrangement between two pharmacies agreed by the NHSE&I regional team, or an arrangement between many pharmacies agreed by the NHSE&I regional team.  

Community Pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites 

NHSE&I is also planning additional support for community pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites to enable contractors to boost capacity if they can. This is likely to include the option to extend pharmacy opening hours and deliver only COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Commenting on the agreements, PSNC Director of NHS Services Alastair Buxton said:  

“Community pharmacies are under enormous pressure at the moment, and the ramping up of the COVID-19 booster campaign this week has only exacerbated this. We are therefore pleased to have agreed these measures which should help to reduce some of the workload for contractors in the coming weeks.  

“We know that for many community pharmacies they will not go far enough, and we are continuing to highlight to the NHS and Government the huge amount of critical work going on in pharmacies – this is having a very positive impact on patients, the public and the NHS, but it is taking its toll on already exhausted pharmacy teams.”  

 

* The DT wording used earlier this year was: Where a pharmacy contractor has been unable to complete the domain(s) which they had intended to complete due to COVID-19, the pharmacy contractor can make a declaration that they will have the evidence to demonstrate compliance with the domain(s) by 30 June 2021. The evidence of completion of the relevant domain(s), must be retained in the pharmacy to demonstrate that the contractor has met the requirements of the domain(s). This evidence may be requested for provider assurance purposes after 30 June 2021.