The Pharmacy Quality Scheme explained

The Pharmacy Quality Scheme explained

Top 5 takeaways

  1. NHSE/I introduced the new Pharmacy Quality Scheme for 2019/20.
  2. It incentivises change and aligns pharmacy more closely to General Practice.
  3. Incentives are available for clusters of activity.
  4. Activities help support the NHS Long Term Plan.
  5. PCN lead pharmacies can earn around £8500.


The Pharmacy Quality Scheme (PQS) offers community pharmacies the opportunity to receive financial incentives. 

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) introduced the new PQS for 2019/20 as part of the new five-year agreement for community pharmacy (2019/20 to 2023/24) in England. This scheme, designed to incentivise change in the sector and align pharmacy more closely to General Practice, builds upon the success of the previous Community Pharmacy Quality Payments Scheme.

Incentives (as points) are available for clusters of activity with the aim of supporting community pharmacy to be a more integrated, clinical service-focused function within the wider NHS system, and provide even safer, accessible healthcare to patients. Activities included within PQS help support the NHS Long Term Plan.

Before being able to achieve the criteria, and therefore receive the financial incentives, pharmacies must meet the PQS Gateway Criteria which require them to:

  • be delivering the New Medicine Service and/or flu vaccinations
  • be connected by NHS mail
  • have updated content in their

NHS website entry, and

  • have undertaken safeguarding level 2 training in last two years.


Once these Gateway Criteria have been achieved, pharmacies work on PQS clusters to earn points. One point has a minimum value of £64 with the potential to earn more from the scheme if some pharmacies do not achieve all their points. The declaration period for 2019/20 is February 2020.

The PQS clusters align closely with the new GP contract3 and include activities on:

  • Risk management and safety – including a focus on reducing Look-Alike, Sound-Alike (LASA) medicine errors, raising awareness of sepsis and creating a safety report.
  • Medicines safety – undertaking audits in lithium, valporate, NSAIDs to complement the GP Quality Outcomes Framework Quality Improvement scheme.
  • Disease and illness prevention – including Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP) accreditation, all staff as dementia friends, creating a dementia-friendly environment, undertaking a diabetes foot and eye audit and reducing the sale of sugar sweetened beverages by 10%.
  • Integration into Primary Care Networks (PCNs) – enabling a collaborative approach across all pharmacies in the PCN and having an appointed named pharmacy lead who must start engaging with the PCN clinical director.
  • Asthma reviews – making sure appropriate action plans are in place and referrals are made for those using short-acting bronchodilators but not inhaled corticosteroids and identifying and referring children five to 15 without a spacer device and/or an asthma action plan.
  • Digital enablers – updating the NHS website opening hours and demonstrating access to the Summary Care Record.


The PQS programme strongly indicates the intent of the NHS to use community pharmacy’s accessibility and capability to support the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan. Early indications are that community pharmacy is responding positively to the challenge to integrate into the local healthcare system, work closely with their GP colleagues and improve quality and safety for patients.

Community pharmacy is an increasingly important stakeholder for the industry, taking on an enhanced role in urgent care, prevention and medicines safety.


Pharmacy Quality Scheme Bundles

30 points: Risk management and safety

25 points: Medicines safety audits

25 points: Prevention

12.5 points: Primary Care Networks (10 extra points for PCN lead)

5 points: Asthma

2.5 points: Digital

1 point is worth a minimum of £64.00 and a maximum of £128.00

A PCN lead pharmacy can expect to earn around £8500 if they meet all the requirements.


Deborah Evans FFRPS FRPharmS FRSPH is Managing Director of Pharmacy Complete, a training and consultancy company working with pharmacy, the NHS and industry.

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