Contractors now have an additional three months to complete parts of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) in light of additional pressures felt by the sector this winter.

Pharmacy teams will now have from 1 April to 5 April to complete a minimum of 20 New Medicine Service (NMS) provisions, which is a gateway criterion to qualify for a PQS payment.

Previously, contractors needed to have completed this by 5 January.

The extension comes as part of a new agreement, in which PSNC, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) have agreed on several measures to help ease the immediate pressures on community pharmacies.

This month, PSNC said it had received reports from contractors — those who are involved in the Covid vaccination programme, and those who are not — of ‘mounting pressures’, ‘workforce problems’ along with ‘capacity issues’, and a ‘rise in staffing costs’ this winter.

For the other scheme requirements, contractors have until 31 March 2022 to complete the domains, and until 30 June 2022 to gather the evidence to demonstrate compliance.

However, the extension will not apply to the following criterion:

● PCN domain: this requires collaborative work on flu vaccination uptake which must be completed by 31 December 2021. The focus of the flu vaccinations is usually up to the end of the calendar year, so the deadline for this work will not be extended.

● Respiratory domain: Advice on return of unwanted and used inhalers – the end of the period during which pharmacy teams should have conversations with patients dispensed an inhaler remains as 31 January 2022.

Last week, PSNC set out a range of measures to help ‘ease immediate pressures on community pharmacies’:

● 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.

In October, The Pharmacist reported that contractors were calling for PSNC to put pressure on NHSE to extend the PQS completion time frame in light of the additional pressure the sector is facing this year.

PQS for this year (2021/22) had already been adjusted to take into account additional pressures this winter.