NHS England and NHS Improvement is introducing an updated Pharmacy Quality Scheme from September 2021

Male pharmacist looking over shelves

As with previous schemes, £75 million of funding is available for the updated Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS), which will focus on supporting recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

Negotiations around the PQS were part of a wider consultation for year three of the 5-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework. With the PQS due to begin on 1 September 2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiation Committee (PSNC) pushed for an earlier release of details to give contractors more time to prepare. 

The quality criteria that will be 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 black, Asian, minority-ethnic, 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 primary care networks 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.

Alastair Buxton, PSNC Director of NHS Services, 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.’