Pharmacists in five regions can now view patient records in an NHS England pilot to give the sector read-only access, the Royal Pharmaceutical (RPS) has announced.
Access should improve both locally and nationally commissioned services, the RPS said in guidance for pharmacists published as the pilot went live on Friday (October 10).
The records would contain – at a minimum – the list of acute, repeat, and discontinued repeat medicines, the patient's allergies, and details of any adverse reactions, the RPS said. The patient's diagnoses and test results may also be available, it said.
Pharmacists should access the SCR to enhance the new medicine service, to verify and compare a patient's medicines during medicines use reviews, and when supplying medicines under a locally commissioned service such as minor ailments schemes, the RPS said.
Pharmacists should also use the record instead of calling the GP to ask about a patient's medication; when dispensing an emergency supply to verify the name, form, strength and dose of a medicine the patient previously took; and to support self-care and provide healthy living advice when delivering public health services.
Patients would need to give "informed, explicit consent", possibly as a signature, before pharmacists could view their records, the RPS said. Pharmacists should only access the records if they have a "legitimate clinical need", and should only view them when logged on with their own smartcard, it said. They should record the patient's name on their PMR along with any advice given or action taken, the RPS said.
The results of the pilots and any recommendations for the potential rollout of records access to other pharmacies would be finalised before the end of March, the RPS said.
James Wood, superintendent at Wicker Pharmacy in Sheffield, who has been using SCR for the past 18 months, said it had been "extremely beneficial", especially when patients needed emergency medication.
Records access "essential"
RPS president Ash Soni said SCR access was "essential" for the sector's development and could make a "real difference" to the quality of care pharmacists provide.
SCR access for pharmacy would reduce prescribing errors and therefore reduce hospital admissions caused by those errors, the RPS said. It could also improve patient convenience and increase public confidence in the profession, it added.
The pilot is taking place in West Yorkshire, North Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Somerset and Sheffield.
In September, the head of the pilot predicted that all pharmacists would have read-only access to the SCR within two years, and would be able to amend patient records within five years. But pharmacists told C+D that five years was "too long" to wait, and urged the government to speed up the process.