New clinical services, alterations to some funding streams and changes to terms of service have been unveiled as part of a number of changes to the community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF).

The changes – which include a new essential service that will see pharmacists supporting patients with new medicines on discharge from hospital, as well as a hepatitis C testing service – were announced yesterday (23 February).

They were set out in a letter to community pharmacy contractors sent jointly by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I).

Much of the CPCF will remain the same as last year, notably the total funding envelope of almost £13bn, which was protected until 2023/24. The funding for 2020/21 will remain at £2.592bn.

Changes to the contract are summarised as follows:

  • New discharge medicines service (from July 2020) – pharmacists will help patients with advice and information about new medicines and prescription changes when they’re discharged from hospital, via a digital referral from the hospital to the patient’s pharmacy.
  • Hepatitis C testing service (from April 2020) – all community pharmacies will be able to provide the service, but in reality, it is only likely to be provided by pharmacies that already provide a locally commissioned needle and syringe service. Fees for the service will be announced ‘soon’.
  • New NHS travel vaccinations service to launch (by March 2021) – this will be rolled out subject to ongoing negotiations. It will cover vaccinations for polio, typhoid, hepatitis A and cholera. Funding will be allocated as more details are agreed.
  • Blood pressure testing and smoking cessation referrals from hospitals – pilots will be rolled out throughout 2020/21.
  • The pharmacy quality scheme (PQS) will launch (April 2020) – the update to the old quality payments scheme will entail new payment bands and alterations to the way points are allocated. Payments will vary according to prescription volume. It will be reviewed in February 2021. Aspirational payments can be claimed from April-May 2020.
  • Transitional payments will increase (from April 2020) – this will include revised payment bands that will be linked to dispensing volumes. The increase will be funded by money diverted from decommissioning MURs and lower establishment payments. Funding will be ‘significantly more’ from April than in 2019/20 due to fewer MURs being delivered. But payments will then reduce over the course of 2020/21.
  • Establishment payments will reduce (from April 2020) – but their phasing out will be extended, with payments phased out completely by the end of the year.
  • The community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) budget will increase – this will cover the costs incurred by referrals from GP practices and NHS 111 online into community pharmacies (though the fees will stay the same).
  • Pharmacists will take referrals from NHS 111 online (from June 2020) – this will encompass urgent supply referrals, as part of the next phase of the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS).
  • The CPCS will extend to also include referrals from GP practices (from Autumn 2020) – the exact date is yet to be confirmed.
  • Changes to the terms of service (from July 2020) – these changes include the requirement for all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to undertake level 2 safeguarding training, and for community pharmacies to begin collecting data on health campaigns. It had previously been stated that one of the gateway criteria for the new PQS was to ensure that 80% of staff had level 2 safeguarding status.

Keep up to date with more details as they unfold. More to follow.