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PQS deadline extended and CPPQ scrapped to 'help ease' pharmacy pressures

The deadline for meeting the requirements of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) will be extended in recognition of the COVID-19 pressures faced by community pharmacies, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has announced.

The requirement to complete the Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire (CPPQ) for 2021/22 will be waived for contractors in England, in recognition of the “current challenges being experienced by pharmacies”, PSNC said in a statement published this morning (December 15).

Contractors will also be exempt from completing the 2021/22 national audit and their chosen 2021/22 clinical audit, as per an agreement between PSNC, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I), and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH).

These measures – which will be kept under review – apply to all pharmacies in England, not just those providing the COVID-19 booster programme, a PSNC spokesperson confirmed to C+D.

Contractors participating in the PQS will “still need to make the PQS declaration during the February window” – which according to the NHS Business Services Authority website closes on February 25 – “but as last year, this will be a claim for work to be undertaken and evidenced by June 30, 2022”.


Agreed measures are “the lion’s share” of PSNC’s wish list


The measures PSNC agreed with NHSE&I and the DH are not everything it had requested, but they are “the lion’s share”, it said.

The negotiator has been seeking flexibility over pharmacy openings during the holiday period, it added, “but NHSE&I has been keen to ensure that pharmacies remain open for their contracted hours” due to the impact of the booster vaccination programme and to “maintain patient access”.

In specific areas, contractors are seeking to close due to the pandemic and workforce pressures on Boxing day and New Year’s Day, which PSNC said are normal contractual days this year.

“NHSE&I has agreed that contractors in an area may agree with NHSE&I a pharmacy opening plan for pharmacies in that area, which ensures adequate patient access to pharmaceutical services, recognising the pressures contractors are under,” the negotiator added.

However, this measure applies to Boxing Day and New Year’s Day only and are for those areas where contractors are struggling to find pharmacist cover, PSNC specified.

Commenting on the agreed measures, PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said: “We know that for many community pharmacies they will not go far enough, and we are continuing to highlight to the NHS and government the huge amount of critical work going on in pharmacies – this is having a very positive impact on patients, the public and the NHS, but it is taking its toll on already exhausted pharmacy teams.”  

Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck – who has been campaigning for NHSE&I to cut red tape to help pharmacies focus on the vaccination programme – tweeted this morning:

Meanwhile, NPA chair Andrew Lane said that while the agreement reached by the negotiator is welcomed, “it’s very modest compared to the tremendous scale of the workload challenge posed by the Omicron wave”.

He suggested that a “nationwide emergency supply scheme” should be introduced to save the time pharmacists spend chasing up prescriptions.

He pointed to a local emergency supply service that is already working in Cornwall, which from December 1 – in response to the pandemic – temporarily allows pharmacists to supply up to 14 days’ worth of treatment to people registered with a GP in Cornwall as well as visitors.

“The requirement for pharmacies to check codes when people ask for lateral flow tests should also be suspended in light of the prevailing circumstances,” Mr Lane added.


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