More than 40 deaths could have been prevented last year if pharmacists had access to patient records, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has told C+D.
"Smart use of pharmacists" – specifically granting them records access – could have prevented 43 deaths that resulted from people taking the wrong medicine, Mr Hunt said in response to a C+D question on the role of the sector.
The health secretary blamed the deaths on medicines being dispensed by "someone who didn't have access to [the patient's] medical records or know what their allergies were". Mr Hunt was having "very good ongoing discussions" with pharmacists about how this situation could be avoided in future, he said at a fringe event at the Conservative party conference organised by charity Age UK on Tuesday (September 30).
"If you went into Boots or another pharmacy and gave them permission [then] they should be able to access your records, see your allergies and your medical history," he said. "Pharmacists go through heavily detailed training and they would give very good advice without any appointment."
Although Mr Hunt told C+D that pharmacists had a "fantastically important role to play" in the health service, he failed to refer to the sector in his conference speech earlier in the day. He reaffirmed David Cameron's commitment - made on the same day - to extend a trial allowing patients to book a GP appointment from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
He also vowed that every patient would be able to access their own medical record online by April 2015 as part of the Conservative party's aim to give people "personal control" of their healthcare.
In his conference speech yesterday (October 1), David Cameron promised that "not a penny" would be cut from the NHS's budget.
Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told C+D at the Labour conference last week (September 23) that pharmacy had a "bigger role to play" in moving care away from hospitals and into communities.