PSNC worked tirelessly to support England’s network of community pharmacies through the many challenges they faced. Some of the measures negotiated included: earlier reimbursement payments; temporary flexibility of service provision; an extension of the 2021/22 Pharmacy Quality Scheme deadline; and the waiving of some contractor audit requirements.
3.1 | During the ongoing pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact on the country, PSNC maintained its practical support for community pharmacy contractors and their teams. For example, we secured an extension to the declaration of an emergency enabling the flexible provision of pharmaceutical services. This allowed pharmacies to make temporary changes to their opening hours or closures under certain specified circumstances. PSNC also reached an agreement with NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a number of measures to help further alleviate the extreme pressure on community pharmacies. These included an extension to the deadline for meeting the requirements of the 2021/22 Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS). We also successfully pushed to have the requirement for pharmacy teams to complete 2021/22 national audit waived, as well as the requirements for contractors to complete the Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire and a contractor-chosen clinical audit.
3.2 | Developing the CPCF
A key ambition when negotiating the 2021/22 Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) arrangements was that they would be as manageable as possible. As well as reducing the scope of (and extending the deadline for) PQS, PSNC’s Negotiating Team pushed back on service proposals that were unworkable for the sector, extended Transitional Payments by a further year, and won concessions around planned changes to regulations. Our service development work resulted in the expansion of the New Medicine Service (NMS), with contractors now able to offer patients support when they are newly prescribed medicines to manage 13 additional conditions, including Epilepsy and Glaucoma. PSNC also secured an increase in the cap on the number of NMS that pharmacies can provide. These changes helped pharmacies offer support to over 2 million patients as part of the NMS during 2021/22.
3.3 | Improving funding processes
Following a decision by DHSC to end the Pharmacy Earlier Payments Scheme (PEPS), PSNC secured an opportunity for all pharmacies to access earlier advance payments. Under the new arrangements, contractors making their FP34C submission through the Manage Your Service (MYS) portal by the 5th of the month following that in which supply was made can now access advance payments approximately 20 days earlier than under the old payment timetable. By March 2022, over 9,600 pharmacy contractors had begun receiving earlier advance payments. January 2022 saw the introduction of a revised Pharmacy Access Scheme (PhAS) with payment based on a bell curve of dispensing volume.
In October 2020, PSNC collaborated with a group of healthcare bodies – including fellow pharmacy bodies, consumer healthcare association PAGB and NHS Clinical Commissioners – to call for a national self-care strategy. The Clinical Consensus on Self Care recommended NHS leaders explore additional pathways to access the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) and enable community pharmacists to populate medical records with fully integrated IT systems.
3.4 | Embedding new services
Year 3 of the CPCF launched new Hypertension Case-Finding and Smoking Cessation Advanced Services, which were important steps in building the vision for pharmacy services that PSNC has been advocating for many years. Following protracted discussions on the Hypertension Case-Finding Service, we gained agreement for additional incentive payments that would come from outside core pharmacy funding. We also provided a range of resources to support contractors providing or planning to offer these and other services, including hosting a joint webinar on the Hypertension Case-Finding Service with NHS England.
3.5 | Improving digital capabilities
PSNC worked with the NHS and IT system suppliers to support developments to ease the workload of pharmacy teams. A significant workstream in 2021/22 related to supporting NHS Digital with the combining of two separate profile updaters (for the NHS 111 Directory of Services and the NHS website) into one tool. Numerous technological advances were introduced or expediated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in relation to the provision of remote consultations, going paperless, and accessing records. We successfully called for these developments to be kept beyond the official end of the pandemic as they brought benefits for both patients and pharmacy teams.
3.6 | Working with LPCs
PSNC continued to convene regular fortnightly meetings of the PSNC and LPC Operations Team (PLOT) to discuss operational issues confronting contractors. The group saw PSNC and the LPCs working together to provide solutions where possible and share information and updates. We hosted various engagement events for LPCs during the year, including a National Meeting of LPC Treasurers, multiple LPC New Members Days, and several national meetings of PSNC and the LPCs. These events allowed delegates to discuss critical topics such as the transition to Integrated Care Systems (ICS) and how to encourage inclusion and diversity within the leadership of the sector. Alongside this, PSNC produced a wealth of resources to help LPCs to better support contractors in their area. These include hosting regional MP/LPC virtual briefings in place of the Parliamentary drop-in events of previous years; detailed guidance for LPCs on supporting the development of Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments (PNAs); and a toolkit designed to help LPCs engage better with commissioners. We also developed a suite of resources for LPCs to engage with their MPs locally, including updated guidance on how to host a pharmacy visit for an MP.
3.7 | Giving pharmacy a voice
PSNC worked to brief politicians, journalists and others on pharmacy matters and concerns, securing national media coverage throughout the year. We partnered with other primary care professions to call for a greater say in the new ICSs. We responded to a vast array of consultations and calls for evidence, including on original pack dispensing and on hub and spoke dispensing, where we outlined the potential impact on community pharmacies. PSNC participated in cross-sector meetings to share intelligence and explore potential ways to mitigate the impact of fuel supply and cost issues and ease the burden on pharmacy teams.