Pharmacists should "embrace" the opportunity of access to patient records despite the increased risk of liability for mistakes, a legal expert has told C+D.
Access to a patient's summary care record, which is currently being trialled in pharmacies in five regions, carried "an additional risk of liability", confirmed John Fitzpatrick, associate at healthcare law firm Hempsons, in response to concerns from pharmacy leaders.
Pharmacists accessing a patient's SCR should "take the appropriate time" to read it and consider all the relevant information before they provided treatment, Mr Fitzpatrick said on Monday (November 10).
Pharmacists would "continue to be professionally accountable" for their "actions or omissions", he stressed. But as long as the risk of increased liability was "appropriately managed", it should not deter pharmacists from making the most of records access, he said.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society's guidance on SCR access - which advises pharmacists to only access the records if they have consent and there is a "legitimate clinical need" - was "sensible and prudent", Mr Fitzpatrick added.
The General Pharmaceutical Council told C+D last week (November 5) that "the extent of any liabilities arising" from SCR access was a "wider legal question" about what advice might be required from a lawyer or insurer.
'Welcome and positive'
Pharmacists' access to patient records was a "welcome and positive step" towards improving patient outcomes and anyone accessing this information should apply the principles of "conduct, ethics and performance" to the additional information, the regulator added.
The NPA, which provides indemnity insurance to pharmacy contractors, said its insurance would cover members who were accused of failing to consult the SCR when they should have, or who made a wrong decision after accessing the record.
In September, the head of the SCR pilot predicted that all pharmacists would be able to amend patient records within five years. The news prompted pharmacy leaders to call for clarity about whether greater records access would increase pharmacists' liability for patient harm, and warn the sector to "look closely" at the legal implications of viewing a patient's SCR.