Over 11,100 pharmacies across England completed part one of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) this year, 640 more than the number that completed the scheme last year, the Pharmacist has learned.

According to data provided by NHS England, 11,108 community pharmacies declared they had completed part one of the PQS during the pandemic in 2020/21. While only 10,468 pharmacies declared they had completed the PQS in 2019/20.

This comes despite concerns raised by PSNC that Covid pressures would impact how many contractors would be able to fulfil the quality criteria.

A further 10,587 community pharmacies completed part two of the scheme so far (10 June) — which is due to close in two weeks (30 June). There was no part two to the scheme in 2019/20.

The first part of the scheme included 14 Covid-related actions that contractors must have undertaken to qualify for their first payment and to be eligible for the second phase.

Funding for the first half of the scheme was set at £18.75m, of which contractors will be able to claim £1,630 each.

In part two of the scheme, contractors needed to choose one of five domains, such as infection control or risk management, and fulfil the quality criteria within it to qualify for payment. Pharmacies received £53.88 per action completed.

Commenting on the figures, Alastair Buxton, PSNC director of NHS services said: 'It is fantastic to see more community pharmacies getting involved with the Pharmacy Quality Scheme.

'Despite increasing workload and workforce pressures, pharmacy teams remain just as keen to provide quality services, improve their skills, and work better with their NHS colleagues. This year was a bit different with Part 1 of the scheme concentrating on supporting the pandemic response, but this made the scheme even more relevant to pharmacies' core role.'

Echoing Mr Buxton, Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England said: ‘It's great news that more pharmacies completed the PQS this year, despite the challenges.’

‘Pharmacists have put patients first throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and should be fairly rewarded for the work they do.

‘It’s now vital for the NHS to make the most of community pharmacy to support the NHS recovery and better manage demand across the health service.

‘This must be backed up by fair funding for community pharmacy, investment in education and training, and read-write access to patient records for all pharmacists.’

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive officer of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) also added: 'This demonstrates how hard community pharmacy teams work to achieve the best outcome for patients and achieve their targets.

'This sector has shown over and over again that we are here for the NHS. We achieved record number of flu vaccinations, we achieve record number of Covid vaccinations through only a few hundred sites and the list goes on.

'Community pharmacy needs be given the right opportunities, support and recognition because we can be a solution for the healthcare sector.'

A version of the scheme — the Community Pharmacy Quality Payments Scheme (QPS) — was initially introduced in December 2016.

It was created as a way to reward community pharmacies for delivering quality criteria in all three of the quality dimensions: clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient experience.

NHS England and NHS Improvement then developed the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) for 2019/20 and 2020/21.