The new Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) for 2021/22 will have ‘realistic’ targets to help reduce the impact on workload and support recovery from Covid, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

The PSNC, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England and Improvement have agreed on new arrangements for the Pharmacy Quality Scheme for 2021-22, which will begin on 1 September.

The discussions formed part of wider negotiations for year three of the five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework which is designed to reward community pharmacies that deliver criteria in clinical effectiveness, patient safety and patient experience.

The funding for the PQS will be maintained at £75m, but contractors will also be able to claim an aspiration payment later in the year.

In a statement on the NHS Business Services Authority website, it said: ‘In 2021/22 the PQS will focus on priorities supporting recovery from Covid-19.

‘In order to participate, pharmacy contractors will need to have completed at least 20 New Medicine Service (NMS) provisions and met requirements related to patient safety and managing risks related to transmission of Covid-19, missing red flag symptoms in over-the-counter consultations and missing sepsis.’

Quality criteria included in the scheme are:

  • Identifying people who would benefit from weight management advice and onward referral, including to the recently introduced NHS Digital Weight Management Programme;
  • Training regarding health inequalities and producing an action plan to actively promote Covid-19 vaccinations, particularly in BAME and low uptake communities;
  • Training to improve skills on the provision of remote consultations;
  • Enhancing antimicrobial stewardship using the target antibiotic checklist;
  • An anticoagulant audit to enhance patient safety;
  • Engagement with PCNs to increase uptake within their population of flu vaccinations;
  • Checking inhaler technique, as part of catch-up NMS, ensuring patients have personalised asthma action plans and use of spacers in children, and encouraging return of unwanted and used inhalers for disposal to protect the environment.

Remaining details for the scheme will be published in the September 2021 Drug Tariff.

PSNC has advised pharmacies start working on three criteria while waiting for further details. These are:

  • The gateway criteria, which requires contractors to have claimed 20 NMS provisions between 1 April 2021 and 5 January 2022.
  • Training requirements – eight out of the 12 requirements have been included in previous PQS’ and if completed and passed, do not need to be completed again.
  • Primary care network domain, which requires contractors to engage with the PCN Lead and develop a plan to work collaboratively with other contractors and general practice to try and increase the uptake of flu vaccinations among patients aged 65 and over.

PSNC director of NHS services, Alastair Buxton, said: ‘The PQS is now a standard fixture in the community pharmacy contract, providing the sector with an excellent opportunity to show our commitment to patients, further develop our clinical practice and be rewarded for providing high quality care.

‘However, with Covid-19 still on all our minds, PSNC has negotiated to reduce the scope of the Government’s original proposal to help manage the impact on contractor workload and costs. We also pushed back to ensure targets across the scheme were realistic in the current environment.

‘By pushing Government for the release of these details ahead of other year three arrangements, we were seeking to give contractors more time to get going with the scheme, but we also hope that news on the rest of the negotiations will be published shortly, once internal Government processes are complete.’

It comes after over 11,100 pharmacies across England completed part one of the PQS this year, 640 more than the number that completed it the previous year.

In November, PSNC asked that contractors be given more time to complete the second part of the PQS.