From September 2021, community pharmacies in England will be tasked with carrying out asthma inhaler technique checks and conducting an audit of patients’ anticoagulant use as part of the Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) for 2021/2022.
The domains for 2021/2022 include a new target for respiratory care, which will require pharmacy staff to ensure people with asthma have personalised asthma action plans and promote spacer device use in children prescribed pressurised metered dose inhalers.
Staff will also be asked to conduct inhaler technique checks for patients who were prescribed an inhaler for the first time, or changed to a new inhaler device, between 1 April 2020 and 31 August 2021.
This comes after a survey of 10,000 patients in 2019 by the charity Asthma UK found that nearly one in five (19%) people were not getting their inhaler technique checked by their GP, putting them at risk of an exacerbation of their condition.
Under the £75m scheme, pharmacies will also be asked to conduct an ‘anticoagulation audit’, building on research published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy in September 2020
The study, which measured patients’ knowledge about their oral anticoagulants and use of anticoagulant alert cards, found that while 97% of patients knew that they were taking anticoagulants, only 20% had alert cards with them at the time of dispensing, 17% had no card and 10% refuted their usefulness.
The researchers highlighted: “Community pharmacists are in a key position to provide high-quality face-to-face care promoting the safe and effective use of anticoagulants and providing and reviewing patient-held booklets.”
In a statement published on 12 August 2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it had agreed the arrangements for this year’s PQS with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England, ahead of the September 2021 start date.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC, said the scheme provides “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, the PSNC has negotiated to reduce the scope of the government’s original proposal to help manage the impact on contractor workload and costs,” he said.
The PSNC has been negotiating the terms of year three of the five-year community pharmacy contractual framework since April 2021 and said that it hoped to release more details shortly.
Smoking cessation pilot extended
The announcement of the updated Pharmacy Quality Scheme comes as NHS England has confirmed that the smoking cessation referral from secondary care into community pharmacy service pilot has been extended to 31 January 2022, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilot, which started in September 2020, had been scheduled to end on 31 July 2021.
Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Given the impact of the pandemic, delays are understandable and wider roll out of the pharmacy pilot should be evidence-based. But time is ticking. NHS England are currently rolling out a new bedside stop smoking service for all inpatients. High-quality support on discharge will be an important part of this programme’s success. As the evidence accumulates through this pilot, we hope it will be swiftly applied to the rest of the country.”
The community pharmacy hypertension case-finding pilot, which ended on 31 July 2021, is currently under review, NHS England has said.