1. Positive impact on practice
Being able to access the SCR should give pharmacists faster and more holistic interactions with patients, something which pharmacist Nirvair Singh at Day Lewis Pharmacy in Sonning Common, near Reading, says is already having a “positive impact” on his practice.
“We have got much more access to patients’ information now, which was long overdue,” he says. “This is certainly helpful as we can be more informed about a patient’s medicines history and the medicines they are taking, which is easier than having to ring a receptionist at the GP surgery to get information – not to mention being more accurate and much quicker.”
Access to a patient’s backstory of medication has already had life-changing effects for some. Jignesh Patel is a pharmacist and director at Rohpharm Pharmacy in Plaistow, east London, which is piloting EMIS Health’s GP Record Viewer (GPRV) to access its customers’ GP records. He says the pilot has made “a massive difference to patient care right from the start”.
“For instance, because we have access to kidney and thyroid test results, we were able to identify patients who looked to be heading for renal failure, but this hadn’t been picked up anywhere else because they hadn’t seen their GPs for a couple of years,” he says.
2. Faster out-of-hours care
SCR access is also proving its worth outside of GP practice hours, according to Mr Singh, who says it comes into its own when “a GP isn’t available and patients don’t know their medical history or what they have on repeat”.
For Wicker Pharmacy in Sheffield, this has meant “a lot less of trying to phone surgeries, and more of being able to sort out people’s problems immediately”, according to owner Martin Bennett. This is particularly the case in extended hours and at weekends when surgeries are mainly shut, he says, adding that patients are often surprised to be asked for permission to access their records. “Most people assume we were doing that already,” says Mr Bennett.
3. Minor adjustments, big wins
Mr Singh says there wasn’t really much that needed to change to accommodate SCR access in terms of space or equipment. He says: “We did have to make sure the team was aware of the criteria around when to access it, what we can do with it and the necessary patient consent.”
Subsequent recording on the patient medical record (PMR) also takes time, according to Mr Bennett, who says that while “SCR access does involve more work, it has sorted out a lot of problems for patients and saved the NHS thousands of pounds – even just from our pharmacy – by keeping people out of A&E and out-of-hours services”.
4. Everyone on side – almost
Mr Singh says the biggest hurdle could be patient consent, but not because they don’t want to give it.
“Every time you need to access the SCR for a patient you have to have their consent, but of course there may be scenarios where patients are unable to give it or they are not there themselves. But so far we have not experienced that,” he says.
Mr Bennett says: “In fact, patients tend to say ‘Where do I sign?’ and are only too pleased to let us see their records – especially people coming from out of the area, such as the gentleman recently who had left his medicines on the train.”
The only issue Mr Patel has come up against has been with GPs.
“So far, only proactive GPs have wanted to work with us on this,” he says. “Some of the older-style practices have actually been obstructive and said patients don’t want it, but that’s not what the patients are telling us.
“Maybe some GPs were worried what we might find out; what errors we might spot and whether that would open up a can of worms.”
5. Doing pharmacy better
Using a system that can help patients – thanks to faster access and clinical information – is also benefiting the profession. Pharmacy has long been working on its standing as a first port of call for expert health advice.
Mr Bennett says: “SCR access can clearly do a great deal for patients and the NHS, but it is also more satisfying for pharmacists that we can do our job even better – although it would be greatly improved if we could write to it, not just read it.
“Nonetheless, we’ve already had a few patients give us positive comments online because we sorted out their problems so quickly – this reinforces the clinical expert aspect of community pharmacy.”