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Pharmacy First: IT updates could be delayed by ‘months’

Pharmacies delivering the new Pharmacy First service could be stuck with “not ideal” alternative IT systems for “months” before they have full access to GP software, the government has revealed.  

Pharmacy First IT systems are still “not ready”, parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care Lord Nick Markham told the House of Lords this week (February 6).

In November, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said that through the new service, pharmacies would have access to and be able to update GP records via GP Connect.

But last month, CPE admitted that the “enhanced access to GP records” was still “being added to pharmacy clinical services IT systems” and would be available “within a few weeks of launch”.

Previously, it had said that “from the launch” of Pharmacy First, contractors would “have access to more parts of the GP record” such as medications, observations and investigations.

But this week, Lord Markham said that full GP Connect access “will be [ready] in the next few months”.

Deeming the proper connectivity of IT systems the “holy grail” of Pharmacy First, he stressed that the eventual update will ensure that “whatever the pharmacies do gets updated to GP records”.

It comes after pharmacy minister Andrea Leadsom also last week said that the automated software would be ready in “a few weeks”.

 

“Not ideal”

 

Lord Markham said that in the meantime, updates to patients’ GP record will be “done by a simple PDF”.

“This is not ideal because it involves a rekeying”, he added. 

Previously, shadow pharmacy minister Preet Kaur Gill described this alternative system of emailing PDFs to GP surgeries as “cumbersome”.

At the time, she criticised the fact that the government “had 12 months to get [IT systems] ready” but that they were still “not live”.

Meanwhile, C+D today reported that “about 3,000” Pharmacy First consultations took place in the first three days of the new service.

Discussing the news in the House of Lords, Lord Markham said that “early indications” from the sector suggested that it had been “managed well”.

“Right now, we feel that it is so far, so good,” he said.

CPE told C+D that the “thousands of consultations taking place in the first few days of the service” was “a clear sign of support” from the public.

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