UK pharmacy should look to the US to see how patient records access can improve care, Alliance Boots director of healthcare Richard Ashworth has said.
Mr Ashworth – a former executive of US pharmacy giant Walgreens, which is buying Alliance Boots – said records access had allowed pharmacists in his home country to easily inform GPs about their contact with patients, in an exclusive interview with C+D last week (September 30).
Mr Ashworth, who will return to Walgreens later this month, added that while pharmacists' interactions with patients in the UK were "not that dissimilar" to those in the US, they were not as connected with other healthcare professionals.
"When a patient sees the GP [or] the pharmacist, the conversations that are occurring between those two aren't joined up. In the US, there's a little bit more integration going on," he said.
Walgreens' 8,200 stores were able to share health records between themselves as well as with GPs, Mr Ashworth pointed out.
UK pharmacists were capable of doing "a lot more than they're doing today", such as saving the NHS money and making health services more accessible, he said. But they needed greater access to patient information in order to "elevate" their role and move away from a purely dispensing function, he added.
However, UK pharmacists had a stronger patient-led approach than pharmacists in the US, Mr Ashworth said, and he would try to instill this attitude in Walgreens upon his return.
Mr Ashworth made the comments on the same day that health minister Jeremy Hunt said records access for pharmacy could prevent deaths caused by patients taking the wrong medication.
Last month, UK pharmacy leaders called for clarity over the legal implications of gaining greater access to patient records, following concerns that it could lead to greater liability in cases of patient harm. The previous week, the clinical lead for an NHS England pilot project for records access predicted that all pharmacies in England will be granted read-write access within five years.