Pharmacists will have to be more vigilant against prescribing errors if they gain access to patient records, as the move could leave them more vulnerable to litigation, a leading lawyer has warned.
Although access to the patient's medical history was "exciting" for the sector, it would also require pharmacy teams to review their risk-management procedures, Noel Wardle, partner at Charles Russell, said at the legal firm's conference yesterday (March 27).
Failing to check a dramatic change in a regular prescription, for example, could leave pharmacists open to compensation claims, he explained.
Pharmacists must have proper procedures in place to make sure risk is managed in the pharmacy, says lawyer Noel Wardle
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Mr Wardle cited the example of a £10 million claim made against a Lloydspharmacy pharmacist in 2006, who failed to contact the prescriber when a regular patient's dose of dexamethasone increased from 0.5mg to 4mg.
The judge ruled in favour of the patient, who had developed the symptoms of Cushing's syndrome, because she was a regular customer at the pharmacy and the pharmacist should have noticed the "dramatic increase", Mr Wardle said.
He warned that pharmacists would have to show the same diligence for first-time customers if they had access to their medical information.
"We're going to have to be careful about how we deal with access to patient records and mindful of this kind of possibility," Mr Wardle stressed. "[Pharmacists] must have proper procedures in place to make sure that risk is managed in the pharmacy and that staff know what they're doing and make the necessary checks."
In January, the government named pharmacist access to patient records as a priority. Last month, London pharmacist Jignesh Patel gained access to patient records in his area, in what he believed was a first for the sector.
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