Pharmacy Quality Scheme – FAQs

Published on: 23rd July 2019 | Updated on: 30th March 2022

This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) 2021/22.

New: PQS: Declaration window is open

The declaration window for the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) 2021/22 is now open.

Community pharmacy contractors can make a claim for a PQS payment up until 11.59pm on Wednesday 2nd March 2022 through the MYS portal.

Contractors are reminded that an extension has been agreed for meeting the requirements of the PQS 2021/22; however, contractors must make their declaration based on what they intend to meet by the extension deadline, by 11.59pm on Wednesday 2nd March 2022.

View FAQs on the extension of the Scheme and the declaration questions

Page last updated: 9th February 2022


Background and general

Q. Do I have to participate in the PQS?
No. The scheme is voluntary – contractors do not need to engage with it.

Q. Which pharmacies are eligible to take part in the PQS?
All pharmacies on the pharmaceutical list in England (i.e., excluding Local Pharmaceutical Services (LPS) contracts) are eligible to take part in the PQS, including pharmacies that are part of the Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) and distance selling pharmacies.

Q. Are distance selling pharmacies eligible to take part in the PQS?
Yes.

Q. Are pharmacies that qualify for the Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) eligible to take part in the PQS?
Yes.

Q. Are pharmacies that hold local pharmaceutical services (LPS) contracts with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) eligible to take part in the PQS?
No. Pharmacies that hold LPS contracts with NHSE&I are not eligible to take part in the PQS. However, where LPS contracts mirror the contractual arrangements of those of the national contractual framework, NHSE&I may make local payments that are equivalent to the PQS. These payments would also need to be claimed via the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) Manage Your Service (MYS) PQS payment declaration.

LPS contractors who are unsure if they would be eligible for such a local payment should contact their regional NHSE&I team for advice.

Q. Will there be a PQS in 2022/23?
Yes, as part of the five-year deal (2019/20 to 2023/24) agreed between PSNC, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHSE&I, the PQS will continue for the next five years (until at least 2023/24).

Q. How much funding has been allocated to the 2021/22 PQS?
The PQS for 2021/22 has funding of £75 million.

Q. Has NHSE&I published guidance on the 2021/22 PQS?
Yes. This is available on the NHSE&I website.

Q. Is it possible to complete the PQS declaration as a bulk submission for multiple pharmacies?
No. PQS declarations must be submitted as an individual pharmacy submission. There is no facility to submit a bulk declaration on behalf of multiple pharmacies.

Aspiration payment

FAQs on the Manage Your Service (MYS) application can be found on our MYS webpage.

Q. How do I claim the Aspiration payment?
Contractors can claim for an Aspiration payment on the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) Manage Your Service (MYS) application between 9am on 4th October 2021 and 11.59pm on 29th October 2021.

There is no requirement to have claimed for a previous PQS to claim an aspiration payment for PQS 2021/22. Once contractors have reviewed the requirements of the PQS 2021/22, they will need to decide which domains they intend to meet at the 2021/2022 declaration period, when they make their Aspiration declaration.

Q. I have recently bought a pharmacy; am I eligible to claim an Aspiration payment?
Yes if you are able to do so between 9am on 4th October 2021 and 11.59pm on 29th October 2021.

Q. When will I be paid my Aspiration payment once I have claimed it?
Contractors will be paid their Aspiration payment on 1st December 2021.

Q. Do I have to have met the Gateway criteria before I can make a claim for an Aspiration payment?
No, however, contractors will need to have met the Gateway criteria on the day of their PQS declaration.

Q. Do I have to claim an Aspiration payment?
No, the Aspiration payment is optional. If contractors do not want to claim it, it will not impact on the contractor’s ability to claim a PQS payment in February 2022.

Q. What happens if I do not meet all the domains that I have aspired to meet (when claiming my Aspiration payment) when I make my PQS declaration during the declaration period?
Where pharmacies have been paid an Aspiration payment which exceeds their final declared total, they must pay back monies for domains which have subsequently not been achieved; this will be deducted automatically by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). Receiving an Aspiration payment is conditional on a contractor’s agreement to this arrangement.

Q. What happens if I claimed an Aspiration payment, but I have since ceased trading?
Prior to the commencement of the declaration period, the NHSBSA will check on a monthly basis whether contractors who received an Aspiration payment have ceased trading. Where that is the case, the NHSBSA will recover the Aspiration payment at the next earliest opportunity, in line with the normal monthly payment cycle to contractors.

Q. Will the Aspiration payment include a payment for the points that will be earned as the Pharmacy PCN lead?
No, the Aspiration payment will be for 70% of the number of points that the contractor aspires to achieve within the band in which the contractor is placed but does not include the extra payment that is earned for being the Pharmacy PCN Lead. This will be paid in full to contractors who claim for this in the February 2022 declaration.

General FAQs on the domains/quality criteria

Q. Is each domain worth the same amount of points/payment?
The points assigned to each domain vary, as set out in the Drug Tariff.

Q. How will my PQS payment be affected if I have not achieved all of the quality criteria in a domain?
If you have not achieved all the quality criteria in a domain, you will not be able to claim payment for that domain; the only exception to this is for the Healthy living support domain. For example, if you do not meet the two criteria in the Addressing unwarranted variation in care domain, you will not be eligible to claim payment for that domain.

Q. Do I need to meet all domains to be eligible for a PQS payment?
No. Each domain has an allocated number of points, based on the pharmacy’s prescription volume. While you must meet all the criteria in a domain to achieve the points for that domain (the only exception to this is for the Healthy living support domain), you do not need to achieve all the domains to receive a PQS payment.

General FAQs on the training requirements

Q. Who is a pharmacy professional?
Pharmacy professionals are pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This includes provisional registered pharmacists.

Q. Are trainee pharmacists and trainee pharmacy technicians covered by the description ‘pharmacy professionals’, with regard to the training requirements in PQS?
No. It is, however, sensible for trainee pharmacists and trainee pharmacy technicians to undertake this training.

Q. Are part-time staff included in the training requirements for PQS?
Yes. The training requirements apply to all specified pharmacy staff working at the pharmacy on the day of the declaration. The number of hours a member of staff is employed for is not relevant.

Q. If I fail one of the required CPPE e-assessments, can I attempt it again straight away?
No. In order to allow you time to revisit the learning materials, you will be locked out of retaking the assessment for 20 hours. If you believe that you have been locked out in error, please contact CPPE at info@cppe.ac.uk.

Q. I have completed a number of the training requirements and e-assessments for a previous PQS. Do I need to complete the training and e-assessments again?
No. If team members have previously completed the training and, where applicable, successfully passed e-assessments, they do not need to complete these again.

Q. Is there an exemption to meeting the training requirements for PQS if staff have recently joined the pharmacy or have returned from long term leave just before the declaration period?
Where new staff who have recently joined the pharmacy or staff returning from long term leave, for example maternity leave, have not undertaken the training and assessment by the day of the declaration, the pharmacy contractor can count them as having completed the training and assessment, if the pharmacy contractor has a training plan in place to ensure they satisfactorily complete the training and assessment within 30 days of the day of the declaration. This training plan and demonstrable evidence of completion of the training and assessment, within 30 days of the day of the declaration, must be retained at the pharmacy to demonstrate they are meeting this criterion.

Q. There are a lot of different terms used to describe pharmacy team members in the PQS; is there a list which defines the different types of staff members?
Yes, the different type of staff members referred to in the PQS are listed below:

  • Registered pharmacy professionals are pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This includes provisional registered pharmacists.
  • Patient-facing pharmacy staff include all registered pharmacy professionals, trainee pharmacists, trainee pharmacy technicians, dispensary staff, medicines counter assistants and delivery drivers. Contractors may also have other staff that can be identified as having patient-facing roles.
  • Non-registered pharmacy staff include all trainee pharmacists, trainee pharmacy technicians, dispensary staff, medicines counter assistants and delivery drivers.
  • Patient-facing staff that provide advice on medicines or healthcare include all registered pharmacy professionals, trainee pharmacists, trainee pharmacy technicians, dispensary staff and medicines counter assistants.
  • Non-registered patient-facing pharmacy staff who provide health advice includes trainee pharmacists, trainee pharmacy technicians, dispensary staff and medicines counter assistants.

Q. A number of the gateway and quality criteria state that, on the day of the declaration, all pharmacy professionals working at the pharmacy must have satisfactorily completed the required training and e-assessment (where applicable); does this include locums?

Yes.

New Medicine Service

Further Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the New Medicine Service (NMS) can be found on our NMS – frequently asked questions page.

Q. Can catch-up New Medicine Service (NMS) provisions, count towards the gateway criterion of having claimed for the provision of 20 NMS between 1st April 2021 and 5th April 2022?
Yes.

Patient safety report

Q. Does completion of the patient safety report replace the need to report patient safety incidents to the National Reporting and Learning Service or the Learn from patient safety events system?
No. Reporting patient safety incidents to the National Reporting and Learning Service (NRLS) or to the Learn from patient safety events (LFPSE) system is a contractual responsibility and pharmacy teams should continue to do this.

Q. Does the written patient safety report need to be submitted to NHS England and NHS Improvement?
No. The report does not need to be submitted routinely to NHS England and NHS Improvement, but contractors should ensure that a copy of the report is kept in the pharmacy.

Q. The gateway criterion states that a ‘written’ safety report at premises level needs to be available for inspection; does this need to be handwritten or can it be computer-generated (typed)?
The report can be either handwritten or computer-generated (typed).

Risk review

Q. Do you need to review your risk review if you have previously completed this for the PQS 2020/21 Part 2?
Yes, this is part of the requirements for the Risk review Gateway criterion.

Q. Does the risk review need to be submitted to NHS England and NHS Improvement?
No. The risk review does not need to be submitted routinely to NHS England and NHS Improvement, but contractors should ensure that a copy of the report is kept in the pharmacy.

Q. Does the risk review need to be completed by the pharmacy team or can our head office team complete it?
The report needs to be completed by the pharmacy team at the pharmacy premises for a risk in that pharmacy; however, different strategies can be used to manage risk and the Superintendent Pharmacist may be involved in determining any organisational-level risk minimisation strategies.

CPPE sepsis online training

Q. Do I need to complete all six e-learning programmes on sepsis to complete the CPPE Sepsis online training as some of these do not appear relevant to community pharmacy?
Yes. Each of the short e-learning programmes explores the recognition of sepsis across a variety of settings supporting the use of a shared language between the health professions. Completing all of the programmes will assist you to pass the sepsis e-assessment, which is required for meeting this gateway criterion.

Q. Are there any resources available to assist me with sharing my learning with my patient-facing staff to ensure they understand alert symptoms for suspected sepsis?CPPE has a sepsis page on their site which includes resources (such as the NICE pathway for sepsis recognition) which can be used to assist in ensuring patient-facing staff understand alert symptoms to ensure referral of suspected sepsis to a pharmacist. The UK Sepsis Trust also have e-learning, workshops and other training opportunities.

Anticoagulant audit

Q. Where can I find the audit template to enable me to complete the anticoagulant audit?
The audit template for the 2021/22 anticoagulant audit is available as an annex in the NHS England and NHS Improvement Pharmacy Quality Scheme 2021/22 guidance.

Q. Do we still have to do another clinical audit as part of our contractual requirement, or can we use the PQS anticoagulation audit as the pharmacy chosen audit for 2021/22?
The anticoagulation audit conducted as part of the PQS cannot be used as the pharmacy chosen clinical audit, as contractors are separately funded for meeting this criterion under the PQS quality criterion. However, in December 2021, it was announced that the requirement for pharmacy teams to complete a contractor-chosen clinical audit in 2021/22 has been waived.

Q. Am I required to search the PMR to identify suitable patients for the audit?
No. contractors are not required to identify patient retrospectively; the audit applies to suitable patients aged 18 years or over who present a prescription for an oral anticoagulant (i.e., vitamin K antagonists, factor Xa Inhibitors or thrombin inhibitors) as listed below:

  • Acenocoumarol;
  • Apixaban;
  • Dabigatran;
  • Edoxaban;
  • Phenindione;
  • Rivaroxaban; or
  • Warfarin.

Q. Can I still claim I have met the anticoagulant quality criterion if I do not have any eligible patients to take part in the audit during the audit period?

Yes. In the extremely unlikely event where a contractor is unable to complete the anticoagulant audit due to the fact that they have not identified any eligible patients during the audit period the contractor should send an email, before they make their declaration for a PQS payment, to the NHSBSA Provider Assurance Team at: nhsbsa.pharmacysupport@nhs.net with the following details:

The subject should state “PQS ANTICOAGULANT AUDIT Nil return for [F code]”

The main body of the email should contain:

  • Pharmacy F code
  • Pharmacy name
  • Pharmacy address
  • Start date of the audit
  • End date of the audit
  • The following text should be included in the body of the email:

“I declare that this pharmacy has undertaken the anticoagulant during the period stated above but no suitable patients have been identified. I am therefore unable to complete the online audit tool.

I acknowledge that NHSBSA may carry out checks on behalf of NHS England and NHS Improvement to determine if any patients have received dispensed anticoagulant items from the pharmacy during the period advised”

  • Name of person making declaration and their role in the pharmacy

Referring patients with asthma to a healthcare professional

Q. How many patients with asthma need to be referred to a healthcare professional to meet the quality criterion?
There is not a specified number of people with asthma that need to be referred to meet the quality criterion.

Q. Can I still meet the requirement of the personalised asthma action plans and promoting spacer device use in children prescribed pressurised metered dose inhalers (pMDIs) quality criterion, if I do not have any suitable patients with asthma to refer to a healthcare professional?
Yes. Where no patients are identified for referral, the contractor will still be eligible for payment as long as they can evidence that they have been working to identify suitable patients and that they have a process in place for referral should they identify someone.

CPPE inhaler technique training

Q. CPPE has advised that they do not provide an online inhaler technique workshop; why is this listed in the Drug Tariff as a training option to meet the criterion?
Due to the pandemic, CPPE has provided several of their workshops online instead of face-to-face. During negotiations, this wording was added to future proof this option in case CPPE decided, in the near future, to run an online inhaler technique workshop, which would mean contractors had the option of attending an online workshop to meet the requirements.

Q. When will CPPE start providing the face-to-face inhaler technique workshops?
CPPE has advised that they are unlikely to start providing face-to-face inhaler technique workshops until 2022. Pharmacists are therefore encouraged to complete the CPPE inhaler technique for health professionals: getting it right e-learning instead, to meet the requirements.

If a pharmacist has previously attended a CPPE face-to-face inhaler technique workshop then this would count as meeting this aspect of the requirement; however, pharmacists would still need to have passed the e-assessment to meet the fully meet the requirements.

Return of unwanted and unused inhalers

Q. Is there specific training that patient-facing pharmacy staff need to complete on the reasons why used, unwanted and expired inhalers should be returned to the pharmacy for safe disposal and the adverse effects on the environment when inhalers are disposed of in domestic waste?
No, there is no specific training course that needs to be completed to meet this requirement but PSNC Briefing 024/21 Reducing the climate change impact of inhalers: environmentally safe disposal can be used by contractors to train their staff and meet this requirement.

Q. Will we be receiving inhaler disposal kits so that waste can be segregated from other medicines waste?
No. Pharmacy teams should continue to dispose of inhalers in the manner they currently do for returned and unwanted inhalers, in line with any guidance issued by the NHSE&I regional team or the waste disposal contractor.

Q. How do we dispose of the inhalers returned due to conversations we have had with patients about the environmental benefits of them returning all unwanted and used inhaler devices to a community pharmacy for safe and environmentally friendly disposal?
These inhalers should be disposed of in the same way as other returned and unwanted inhalers.

Q. Will NHSE&I increase the number of waste collections if we are receiving more inhalers for disposal?
If contractors find they are receiving more inhalers for disposal and do not have the appropriate number of waste bins to store their waste medicines, they should contact their regional NHSE&I team to discuss this.

Q. How do we evidence that the pharmacy team has had verbal conversations with all patients, their carer or representatives, for whom they have dispensed an inhaler between 1st September 2021 to 31st January 2022, about the environmental benefits of them returning all unwanted and used inhaler devices to a community pharmacy for safe and environmentally friendly disposal with patients?
It is up to contractors to decide how they would evidence meeting this requirement, but as a minimum they should keep a log of the number of conversations they have had, as they will be required to enter this information when they make their PQS declaration. Contractors could also consider updating their SOPs to reflect the new process of having a conversation with all patients, their carer or representatives about the environmental benefits of them returning all unwanted and used inhaler devices to a community pharmacy for safe and environmentally friendly disposal or also making a record of the conversation on the PMR or appropriate patient record.

CPPE remote consultation skills

Q. Since there is no e-assessment for the CPPE remote consultation skills e-learning, how do pharmacy professionals provide evidence that they have completed this requirement?
To provide evidence of completed the e-learning, pharmacy professionals will need to confirm completion of the Remote consultation skills e-learning programme in their CPPE learning record. When you have confirmed completion, you will be able to download a certificate of study.

Pharmacy professionals will need to locate the Remote consultation skills e-learning programme in their learning record, select ‘Certificate of study’ and confirm that they have completed the e-learning programme to download their certificate. Guidance on this process is available on the CPPE PQS page.

Primary Care Networks

Q. Does the Pharmacy PCN Lead need to be a pharmacist?
No, however due to the likely clinical focus of the potential collaboration within PCNs between community pharmacies and general practices, a pharmacist or pharmacy technician may be best placed to act in that capacity.

Q. Could the LPC appoint an LPC representative as the Pharmacy PCN Lead for a PCN?
Contractors, not LPCs, must appoint the Pharmacy PCN Lead. All contractors in the PCN that wish to engage in the process should be able to nominate themselves or one of their employees to stand to be the Pharmacy PCN Lead. Contractors will then decide who should be appointed as the Pharmacy PCN Lead. This may be an LPC member, but there should be no assumption that an LPC member is a default lead.

Q. What happens if we do not have any suitable or willing candidates to be the Pharmacy PCN Lead?
If a Pharmacy PCN Lead cannot be identified, contractors in the PCN area will not be able to claim payment for PCN domain.

Where LPCs are struggling to identify a suitable Lead, LPCs are advised to ensure they highlight the vacancy to the head offices, regional and area field leaders that represent multiple contractors, and the superintendents or owners of any small multiples that have pharmacies within that PCN, to marshal support in light of the impact of no appointment being made.

Q. Can one-person represent and act on behalf of a multiple contractor when discussing the appointment of a Pharmacy PCN Lead, casting a vote or engaging in the discussion on the PCN domain?
Yes.

Q. Can there be more than one Pharmacy PCN Lead for a PCN?
From a PQS perspective, there can only be one Lead for the PCN. This is to ensure there is a single community pharmacy point of contact for the PCN leaders. It would be possible to appoint a deputy Lead, to share some of the work, but they would not be eligible for a PQS payment.

Q. If a local meeting of contractors is being organised to appoint a Pharmacy PCN Lead and a contractor within the PCN is not able to attend the meeting, can they still be involved in the collaborative working and choosing the lead?
Yes. If a contractor is not able to attend a meeting or send a representative, this should not exclude them from ongoing collaborative working between pharmacies within the PCN. The LPC could provide an update to the contractor following the meeting.

If a vote is to be taken at the meeting on the appointment of a Pharmacy PCN Lead, the contractor could give another individual their proxy for the vote or where the candidates for selection are known in advance of the meeting, the LPC could be sent the votes of any contractors not able to attend the meeting in advance.

Q. Can an individual be a Pharmacy PCN Lead for more than one PCN?
The role of Pharmacy PCN Lead is likely to take time to undertake on a regular basis and this workload needs to be considered by anybody putting themselves forward for appointment. Due to the local focus of PCNs, PSNC believes that, wherever possible, it is appropriate that the Pharmacy PCN Lead works within a community pharmacy in the PCN area on a regular basis, providing services to patients. Therefore, it is technically possible that an individual working across multiple pharmacies in two PCNs could be a Pharmacy PCN Lead, however it is unlikely to be a practical option in most cases.

Q. What is the minimum number of contractors that are allowed in a PCN?
There is not a minimum number of contractors allowed in a PCN; however, as each PCN will cover an average population of 30,000-50,000, it is likely that there will be a number of pharmacies in each PCN.

Q. How can I find out how to contact my PCN?
If a contractor wants to contact their PCN, they should contact the Pharmacy PCN Lead who will represent all contractors within a PCN, and therefore be able to communicate directly with the PCN on the contractor’s behalf. If they do not know who the Pharmacy PCN Lead is, or a Pharmacy PCN Lead has not yet been appointed, the contractor should contact their LPC.

Q. If a pharmacy is within the geographical area of multiple PCNs, can they claim multiple PQS payments for the PCN domain, for engagement with multiple PCNs?
No. A pharmacy in this situation would need to determine a primary PCN within which it would collaborate with other contractors, in line with the PQS requirements. The pharmacy may wish to keep in touch with the pharmacy leads within other PCNs where the flow of patients/scripts means they have a clear relationship with the PCN.

Q. Where a Pharmacy PCN Lead leaves the role before the point a PQS declaration is made, can a declaration still be made by the pharmacy the lead was based at, as if the Pharmacy PCN Lead was still based at that pharmacy?
If a Pharmacy PCN Lead is no longer able to perform the role of the Lead, but has completed all the required engagement activity, then the pharmacy that the Lead was based at will still be able to make their declaration as if the Lead was still in post.

Contractors in the PCN will also need to complete their declarations with the name of the original Pharmacy PCN Lead. The departing Pharmacy PCN Lead or the pharmacy contractor will need to inform the LPC of their departure from the role, as well as all the aligned contractors in that PCN. The Lead must also confirm to the LPC that all the above required activity has also been completed. The LPC may want to ensure all contractors aligned to the PCN affected have the correct Pharmacy PCN Lead name and pharmacy details for the declaration.

However, if the requirements of the PCN domain have not yet been met by the departing Pharmacy PCN Lead, then a new Lead will need to be appointed and the pharmacy that the new Lead is based in will be the pharmacy that declares as the PCN Lead. Should both leads have partially contributed to the domains being completed, the two contractors could agree a private arrangement to share the PCN Lead funding in a manner which reflected the split of work undertaken.

Q. Our Pharmacy PCN Lead has resigned or left the role; are we still allowed to make declarations against the PCN domain?
Where a Pharmacy PCN Lead resigns or leaves the role, but the required activities have been completed before they resigned or left the role, the contractor will still be able to make their declaration as the Pharmacy PCN Lead.

Contractors aligned to the PCN are also able to declare against the PCN domain where they were involved and contributed to meeting the requirements of the domain.

Q. Can Pharmacy PCN leads still be recruited to assist with completion of PQS PCN activity once the PQS has started (i.e., after 1st September 2021)?
Pharmacy PCN Leads can continue to be recruited where gaps occur, however all communications between the contractor and Pharmacy PCN Lead must be completed by 31st December 2021 in order to meet the requirements for PQS.

Q. If a PCN Clinical Director or their agreed lead does not engage with the Pharmacy PCN Lead, does this mean that contractors aligned to the PCN cannot declare against that domain?
No. If a lead other than the PCN Clinical Director has been assigned to work with community pharmacy and that individual is not engaging with the Pharmacy PCN Lead, then in the first instance, and with LPC support, the Clinical Director’s support should be sought.

If the PCN Clinical Director is not engaging with the Pharmacy PCN Lead and the Lead has made best endeavours to make contact and progress the requirements of the PQS domain with the Clinical Director, as long as all other aspects of the domain have been undertaken, a claim for the domain could be made by the lead and any participating contractors. The Lead would need to retain evidence to demonstrate the attempts they made to make contact and engage with the Clinical Director (e.g., email trails).

Q. Where a Pharmacy PCN Lead has not managed to undertake relevant activities before the specified deadlines, how will this impact contractors aligned to that PCN?
If the activities required by the domain do not occur, then contractors aligned with that PCN cannot declare against that domain. The contractors who elected their Pharmacy PCN Lead need to hold them to account to undertake the activity and support meeting the requirements of the domain.

If there are problems with the ways of working in the PCN or a lack of activity by a Lead, the assistance of the LPC could be sought. The PCN domain requires collaboration with the Pharmacy PCN Lead, between contractors aligned with the PCN and with the PCN. This collaboration therefore requires active management within the group of contractors.

Q. Can Pharmacy PCN leads still be recruited to assist with completion of PQS PCN activity once the PQS has started (i.e., after 1st September 2021)?
Pharmacy PCN Leads can continue to be recruited where gaps occur, however all communications between the contractor and Pharmacy PCN Lead must be completed by 31st December 2021 in order to meet the requirements for PQS.

Q. If a PCN Clinical Director or their agreed lead does not engage with the Pharmacy PCN Lead, does this mean that contractors aligned to the PCN cannot declare against that domain?
No. If a lead other than the PCN Clinical Director has been assigned to work with community pharmacy and that individual is not engaging with the Pharmacy PCN Lead, then in the first instance, and with LPC support, the Clinical Director’s support should be sought.

If the PCN Clinical Director is not engaging with the Pharmacy PCN Lead and the Lead has made best endeavours to make contact and progress the requirements of the PQS domain with the Clinical Director, as long as all other aspects of the domain have been undertaken, a claim for the domain could be made by the lead and any participating contractors. The Lead would need to retain evidence to demonstrate the attempts they made to make contact and engage with the Clinical Director (e.g., email trails).

Q. I am having difficulty obtaining information relating to the PCN boundaries and practices that are within them. What can I do next?
If having tried to obtain this information from the CCG, LMC and NHSE&I regional team, the LPC still cannot obtain the necessary information, they should contact the PSNC Services Team, who will escalate the matter to the NHSE&I central team.

Q. Is there funding for LPCs to support this work?
No. The only national funding currently available is money for contractors via the PQS. LPCs can legitimately use their levy funding to support contractors’ engagement with PCNs and the work of Pharmacy PCN Leads; PSNC would support this approach.

The 10 PQS points funding increment is available for Pharmacy PCN Leads in 2021/22 to recognise some of the additional work they will need to undertake, but additional local funding will be required if PCNs wish to engage with Pharmacy PCN Leads on other topics. The content of the 2022/23 PQS has not yet been determined, so ongoing funding for Pharmacy PCN Leads via the scheme should not be presumed.

Q. By when does the Pharmacy PCN Lead need to be appointed?
To ensure that community pharmacy is embedded into the work of the PCN as quickly as possible, there is a need for Pharmacy PCN Leads to be appointed as soon as possible, ideally by the end of October 2021 as all communications between the contractor and Pharmacy PCN Leads must be completed by 31st December 2021 to meet the PQS domain. Contractors therefore need to have had meetings and worked with the Pharmacy PCN Lead to have formulated the Pharmacy PCN plans for the PCN PQS domain as soon as possible, recognising that the flu vaccination programme will start on 1st September 2021.

Q. If a local meeting of contractors is being organised to discuss the PCN domain and work up the pharmacy plan and a contractor is not able to attend the meeting, can they still be involved in the collaborative working and claim for the domain?
Yes, where a contractor is not able to attend the organised meeting, or provide a representative to attend, this should not exclude them from ongoing collaborative working between pharmacies within the PCN. However, it is the responsibility of the contractor to contact the Pharmacy PCN Lead to obtain an update on the event and ensure that they can contribute to the plan following the meeting.

Q. Can a locum pharmacist be considered for the role of a Pharmacy PCN Lead?
The role of Pharmacy PCN Lead is likely to take time to undertake on a regular basis and this workload needs to be considered by anybody putting themselves forward for appointment. Due to the local focus of PCNs, PSNC believes that, wherever possible, it is appropriate that the Pharmacy PCN Lead works within a community pharmacy in the PCN area on a regular basis, providing services to patients. Where considering a locum pharmacist, also key in the considerations is whether the locum has a clear contractual employment link to the contractor that will be claiming for the PQS Lead element. Where this is not the case, then it would not be appropriate.

Considering the above factors, while it is technically possible for a locum who has a contractual link to the contractor that will be claiming for the PQS Lead element to be considered for the role a Pharmacy PCN Lead, it is unlikely to be a practical option in most cases.

Q. Will contractors only be awarded the PCN Domain points if the PCN achieves 80.1% or above for flu vaccination to patients aged 65 and over?
Yes. Points will be allocated in accordance with a sliding linear scale starting from 80.1% up to a maximum allocation of points on achievement of 86% or above for the 6 bands – please see the table below.

Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6
Point per 0.1 percentage point increase between 80.1% and 86% 0.0083 0.1111 0.1389 0.1667 0.1944 0.2222

Q. If the PCN achieves 80.1% or greater for flu vaccination to patients aged 65 and over, is the financial incentive shared amongst everyone in the PCN or just GP practices?
Both community pharmacy and general practices in PCNs are being incentivised similarly on the delivery of flu vaccinations to facilitate a collaborative approach in a PCN.

Pharmacy contractors who meet the requirements of the PCN Domain including the PCN achieving 80.1% or greater for flu vaccination to patients aged 65 and over and make a PQS declaration for this Domain, will receive a payment under the Pharmacy Quality Scheme.

PCNs have an Investment and Impact Fund (IIF) indicator for the percentage of patients aged 65 years or over who receive a seasonal influenza vaccination between 1st September and 31st March, with a threshold of between 80-86%. Therefore, if they meet the requirements of the IIF indicator, practices will also receive a payment for this.

Q. Do pharmacy PCN Leads need to hold virtual/face to face meetings with contractors within their PCN to discuss flu plans?

While this is not a requirement in the Drug Tariff wording for the PQS 2021/22, the contractor of the Pharmacy PCN Lead is able to claim 10 points for the work of the lead (minimum value: £677.50), which reflects the level of engagement and work that is expected of the role.

PSNC has issued guidance for Pharmacy PCN Leads on a process that could be followed to ensure Pharmacy PCN Leads are meeting the requirements of the Domain and this does suggest holding a contractor meeting, as a discussion is required to meet this requirement. We do not believe an email or WhatsApp exchange constitutes a discussion for the purposes of this Domain, nor does it allow for the intention, which is to share, learn and collaborate on how contractors will work with each other and how they could collaborate with general practice colleagues.

This discussion can occur virtually using a meetings platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Action plans

These FAQs relate to the following action plans:

  • Antimicrobial stewardship action plan;
  • COVID-19 vaccination promotion action plan; and
  • Weight management action plan.

Q. Do any of the action plans need to be submitted to NHS England and NHS Improvement?
No. The none of the action plans need to be submitted routinely to NHS England and NHS Improvement, but contractors should ensure that a copy of the action plans are kept in the pharmacy.

Q. Do the action plans need to be completed by the pharmacy team or can our head office team complete them?
The action plans need to be completed by the pharmacy team at the pharmacy premises; however, different strategies can be used to meet these requirements therefore the Superintendent Pharmacist or other head office colleagues may be involved in determining any organisation-level strategies to meet these requirements.

Q. Are there any resources available to assist contractors with creating an action plan?
A template action plan is available on the PQS hub page.

Q. If your pharmacy is a COVID-19 vaccination site, will this cover the requirement to have a COVID-19 vaccinations action plan?
No.

Antibiotic review

Q. Can I still claim I have met the antibiotic review requirements if I do not have any eligible patients to take part in the review during the required period?
Yes. In the extremely unlikely event that a contractor is unable to complete the antibiotic review due to the fact that they have not identified any eligible patients during the audit period the contractor should send an email before they make their declaration for a PQS payment, to the NHSBSA Provider Assurance Team at: nhsbsa.pharmacysupport@nhs.net with the following details:

The subject should state “PQS TARGET CHECKLIST AUDIT Nil return for [F code]”

The main body of the email should contain:

  • Pharmacy F code
  • Pharmacy name
  • Pharmacy address
  • Start date of the audit
  • End date of the audit
  • The following text should be included in the body of the email:

“I declare that this pharmacy has undertaken the antibiotic review during the period stated above but no suitable patients have been identified. I am therefore unable to complete the online audit tool.

 I acknowledge that NHSBSA may carry out checks on behalf of NHS England and NHS Improvement to determine if any patients have received dispensed antibiotic items from the pharmacy during the period advised.”

  • Name of person making declaration and their role in the pharmacy

Q. I have received an email from ESPAUR saying that I have submitted fewer than 25 antibiotic checklists on the portal application but according to the email confirmations I have received, I have submitted data for more antibiotic checklists than the data shows. What should I do?
If you received the email during week commencing 31st January 2022, then you should ignore this email as ESPAUR has advised that an error has been identified with the data they sent out in this email; please see the PSNC news story on this.

You should continue to submit data via the portal application, or if you have submitted data for at least 25 TARGET antibiotic checklists and have the emails to confirm this, then you should make your PQS declaration based on the number of email confirmations you have received. You should ensure you keep these email confirmations as evidence of meeting the requirement.

Weight management

Q. If we had conversations with people who wanted support with managing their weight in the PQS 2020/21 Part 2, do we need to do this again?
Yes. The requirement for the PQS 2021/22 is that pharmacy teams must proactively discuss weight management with a minimum of 25 patients. Discussions from the PQS 2020/21 Part 2 do not count towards the requirement.

Q. How do I find out if we have a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service?
Contractors could check their Local Authority’s website to see if they have any information on tier 2 weight management services. Alternatively, contractors could check their LPC website to see if they have information listed on Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management services.

Q. Can pharmacy team members be referred to either a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service or the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme?If pharmacy team members meet the criteria for a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service or the NHS Digital Weight Management programme, then they can be referred to either programme.

Q. Is it a requirement of the Healthy living support Domain to measure the Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 people?
No. Pharmacy teams must proactively discuss weight management with a minimum of 25 people and there must be a competent individual within the pharmacy who can offer to measure a patient’s BMI, but pharmacy teams are not required to measure the BMI of 25 people.

Q. I have not been able to find a patient to refer to either a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service or the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme. Does this mean I cannot claim for the Healthy living support Domain?
No. If contractors have met all of the other requirements within the Domain but have not been able to make a referral to a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service or the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme, they can claim for the Intervention part of the Domain but they would not be eligible for the Referral part of the Domain.

The number of points attributed to the referral and the intervention aspect of this Domain is outlined in the table below for each of the bands:

Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6
Intervention  0.75 10.00 12.50 15.00 17.50 20.00
Referral 0.25 3.33 4.17 5.00 5.83 6.67

Q. Do I need to make at least one referral to both a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service and the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme to meet the referral aspect of the Domain?
No. Pharmacy teams are required to make at least one referral to either a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service or the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme. As long as one referral has been made, the contractor has met the referral aspect of the Domain.

Pharmacy payment bands

Q. If I opened a new pharmacy during the 2020/21 year; how is my annual prescription volume calculated to assign my pharmacy banding for PQS?
If a pharmacy opened part way through the 2020/21 year and therefore does not have a full year of dispensing history, the NHSBSA will calculate the pharmacy’s total prescription volume by multiplying the average number of prescriptions dispensed per month during the months the pharmacy was open in 2020/21 by 12. This will then be used to assign the pharmacy to a band for PQS.

Q. If I purchased a pharmacy during the 2020/21 year and the ODS code changed, how is my annual prescription volume calculated to assign my pharmacy banding for PQS?
If a pharmacy was purchased during the 2020/21 year and a new ODS code was assigned, the change in ownership, for the purpose of the PQS banding only, is not treated as a new contractor. The annual prescription volume will therefore be the sum of the prescription volumes for both the original and the new ODS codes during 2020/21.

Q. Are referred-back items included in the annual prescription volume figure?
The referred-back items in January, February and March 2021 are included in the calculation of the annual prescription volume.

Q. If my prescription count was abated due to a delay in submission in any month in the 2020/21 year, will this be considered when calculating my annual prescription volume?
Yes, the NHSBSA will have taken this into account as part of their calculations for your annual prescription volume.

Q. What banding will I be assigned if my pharmacy opened during the 2021/22 year?
Contractors, who opened after 31 March 2021, will be placed in band 2 for PQS 2021/22.

Q. I own a pharmacy that is eligible for the 2021/22 Pharmacy Access Scheme; will that affect my banding?

Pharmacies that are eligible for the 2021/22 Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS), are automatically placed in band 4 if according to their prescription volume they would have been in band 1 to 3. PhAS pharmacies which are in band 5 and 6 according to their prescription volume will be paid according to these bands.

Q. If I purchased a pharmacy during the 2021/22 year and the ODS code changed, how is my annual prescription volume calculated to assign my pharmacy banding for PQS?

If a pharmacy was purchased during the 2021/22 year and a new ODS code was assigned, the change in ownership, for the purpose of the PQS banding only, is not treated as a new contractor. The annual prescription volume will therefore be the sum of the prescription volumes for the original ODS during 2020/21 and this figure will then be assigned to the new ODS code for this pharmacy.

Q. What should I do if I am not happy with the banding my pharmacy has been assigned?
The bandings are based on the NHSBSA’s payment data for 2020/21. Any questions regarding the calculation of the bands can be sent to the NHSBSA Provider Assurance team at nhsbsa.pharmacysupport@nhs.net.

PQS declaration (making a claim)

FAQs on the Manage Your Service (MYS) application can be found on our MYS webpage.

Q. Do I need to make a declaration if my pharmacy does not meet the Gateway criterion for the 2021/22 PQS?
No, contractors are only required to make a declaration if they intend to claim payment for the Scheme. If contractors do not meet the Gateway criteria, they would not then be eligible to claim a PQS payment, therefore there is no requirement to make a declaration.

Q. Can I view the declaration questions ahead of making my declaration?
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has published the questions which will be included in the 2021/22 Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) declaration so community pharmacy contractors can view these ahead of making their declaration.

The questions are available on the NHSBSA PQS hub page; contractors should scroll down to the ‘Declaration questions’ section where they can access the questions in a Word document.

Contractors should note that all the questions in the declaration relating to the Primary Care Networks (PCN) domain are stated in the Word document. However, when contractors come to make their declaration on the NHSBSA’s Manage Your Service (MYS) portal, contractors will be directed to the relevant questions for them to answer, depending on the answers given to the first three questions in the ‘Questions to establish your role’ section:

  1. Are you in a Primary Care Network area?
  2. Is there a Pharmacy PCN Lead in your area?
  3. Is the Pharmacy PCN Lead based at your pharmacy?

Q. In the Primary Care Networks Domain section, I am asked ‘How many eligible people has your pharmacy vaccinated under the community pharmacy seasonal influenza vaccination advanced service between 1 September 2021 and 31 January 2022?’ Is this all patients or those aged 65 years and over as there is also a requirement for the contractor to have demonstrably contributed to the PCN achieving 80.1% or above for flu vaccination to patients aged 65 and over?
Contractors should enter the number of vaccinations they have administered to all eligible patients (not just those aged 65 and over). The requirement to have demonstrably contributed to the PCN achieving 80.1% or above for flu vaccination to patients aged 65 and over, is a separate requirement in the Domain.

Q. In the Healthy living support Domain section of the declaration, there is a question asking how many patients have had their BMI calculated and waist circumference measured. Since there is a requirement to have proactively discussed weight management with a minimum of 25 patients, is the expectation that you will need to have calculated BMI and measured waist circumference for 25 patients or higher for this question to meet the requirement?
No. The Drug Tariff states that ‘A competent individual within the pharmacy (for example, a registered pharmacy professional or nominated team member) must be able to offer to measure a patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI), using an appropriate BMI calculator such as, the NHS healthy weight calculator and measure waist circumference’; and

When making a declaration for this criterion, the following information must be reported on the MYS application:

  • the total number of patients who had their BMI calculated and waist circumference measured, including explanation of the definition of BMI and the potential health impact of each.

Therefore, the requirement does not state that this number needs to be 25 or higher to meet the requirement.

Q. There is a requirement in the Healthy living support Domain that states ‘Pharmacy teams must proactively discuss weight management with a minimum of 25 patients’. Why is there not a question on this in the PQS declaration?
In the Drug Tariff, there is no requirement to make a declaration that the pharmacy team has proactively discussed weight management with a minimum of 25 patients on MYS. Contractors are instead asked to give figures on the outcomes of these conversations (e.g. number of patients who have had the BMI and waist measurements calculated and number of referrals made), rather than confirm that they have had the conversations.

However, the requirement to proactively discuss weight management with a minimum of 25 patients is a requirement of the Healthy living support domain, which contractors will need to be able to demonstrate they have met by 31 March 2022 if they claim for a payment for this domain.

Q. There are a number of questions with regards to whether certain staff members e.g. pharmacy professionals working at the pharmacy will have met certain training requirements and passed associated e-assessments (where applicable) by 31st March 2022. Which date should we use to calculate who to include and therefore be able to answer this question?
The date of declaration should be used. On the date of declaration, contractors should consider if there are staff members working in their pharmacy (on that day) who have not yet met the training requirements and e-assessments (where applicable) stated in the question. If there are, but the intention is that they will meet the training requirements and have passed the e-assessments by the 31st March 2022, then contractors, can answer yes to this question.

Q. There are a number of questions with regards to training that ask how many staff members e.g. pharmacy professionals will have met certain training requirements and passed associated e-assessments by 31st March 2022. Which date should we use to calculate which staff members to include and therefore be able to answer this question?
The date of declaration should be used. On the date of declaration, contractors should consider if there are any pharmacy professionals working in their pharmacy (on that day) who have not yet met the training requirements and e-assessments (where applicable) stated in the question. If there are, but the intention is that they will meet the training requirements and have passed the e-assessments by the 31st March 2022, then contractors, should include these pharmacy professionals in the total, as well as the registered pharmacy professionals who have already completed the required training and the associated e-assessment.

Q. What should I do if I have made a mistake in my PQS declaration and have claimed for a criterion that I did not achieve?
Email the NHSBSA Provider Assurance team at nhsbsa.pharmacysupport@nhs.net to let them know about the incorrectly claimed PQS criterion, so this can be amended in the MYS data before payments are calculated.

Q. What should I do if I have made a mistake in entering some of the data related to the various domains I have undertaken as part of the PQS?
Incorrect data can be highlighted by emailing the NHSBSA Provider Assurance team at nhsbsa.pharmacysupport@nhs.net to let them know and provide the correct data. It won’t be possible for your claim to be amended if you have not correctly claimed for a criterion, but it may be possible for the data to be amended in due course, to ensure the overall data reflects the activity that pharmacies undertook.

Q. When can I make a declaration for a PQS payment?
The window for claiming a PQS payment on MYS is between 3pm on Thursday 3rd February 2022 and 11.59pm on Wednesday 2nd March 2022. It is important not to miss this deadline as you will not be able to claim a PQS payment if you do.

Q. When will I be paid my PQS payment?
Contractors who met the Gateway criteria plus at least one domain and submitted their claim between 3pm on Thursday 3rd February 2022 and 11.59pm on Wednesday 2nd March 2022 will be paid their PQS payment on 1st April 2022.

Q. How long should I retain PQS paperwork/records for post-payment verification (PPV) purposes?
PSNC recommends that PQS paperwork/records are retained for three years following the submission of the PQS declaration for PPV purposes. Contractors may need to retain paperwork and records for longer periods for reasons other than PPV.

Q. What should I do if I have already completed my PQS declaration, but the PCN Pharmacy Lead has now changed to a different individual?
Your declaration of the name of the PCN Pharmacy Lead was correct at the time of declaration and made in good faith, so the change in the Lead will not affect the pharmacy’s PQS payment. To avoid the NHSBSA having to check with you about the name of the Pharmacy PCN Lead when they undertake the validation of that data, you can email the NHSBSA Provider Assurance team at nhsbsa.pharmacysupport@nhs.net to highlight the change in the Pharmacy PCN Lead.

Where possible, it would also be appropriate for the previous Pharmacy PCN Lead to email the NHSBSA to let them know that they are no longer the Lead.

General practices

Q. There is a Briefing for general practice teams on the changes to the community pharmacy contract, is there one for pharmacy teams on the general practice contract/PCNs?
Yes. PSNC Briefing 035/21: Primary Care Networks – plans for 2021/22 and 2022/23 summarises the key points of relevance to community pharmacy in the NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) guidance on Primary Care Networks – plans for 2021/22 and 2022/23 published on 24th August 2021.

The guidance details plans for the gradual introduction of new service requirements for Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and confirmation of how PCNs will access the funding available for their activities through the Investment and Impact Fund (IIF) – an incentive scheme for PCNs – across the second half of 2021/22 and 2022/23.

Q. Are GP practices aware of the PQS and will they be expecting an increased number of referrals?
PSNC has published PSNC Briefing 040/21: Briefing for general practice teams – changes to the NHS community pharmacy contract in 2021/22 which contractors may want to consider using to aid local discussions with their GP practices on the changes to the contract and why additional referrals may be made to their practices.

NHSE&I has also highlighted the PQS in their Primary Care Bulletin, which for teams across general practice, dentistry, community pharmacy and optometry.

Return to the Pharmacy Quality Scheme page

For more information on this topic please email info@psnc.org.uk

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