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Pharmacy Voice: sector unity on IT is 'critical'

IT Zone Pharmacy Voice has unveiled its IT strategy, which focuses on a single central community pharmacy IT framework across the UK, in an exclusive interview with C+D.

Pharmacy Voice has urged the sector to unite around a single IT vision to help develop its contribution to patient care.

The employer organisation's IT strategy, unveiled exclusively to C+D this week, was intended to improve "the engagement between all stakeholders with an interest in community pharmacy IT policy" and highlight what pharmacy systems would need to do in "one, two or four years' time".

"IT is an absolutely critical enabler of where pharmacy needs to be," said Pharmacy Voice IT lead Gareth Jones. "I think [the strategy] shows a flavour of how we think we need to develop pharmacy IT."

"IT is an absolutely critical enabler of where pharmacy needs to be" Gareth Jones, Pharmacy Voice

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The main aims of the strategy include having a single central community pharmacy IT framework across the UK, and greater exchange of information across primary and secondary care.

The strategy was a "work in progress and must be developed in partnership with the input of pharmacy bodies and government", the document states. "The detail, as in what we want the IT system to do, isn't finalised. More work is required," Mr Jones added.

Pharmacy Voice called on all pharmacists to get involved in developing the detail (email comments to [email protected] by September 30). "It's the people who provide pharmacy services that really need to drive this," Mr Jones said.

Despite the need for further detail, the strategy sets out three "critical" measures of its success: The creation of a pan-pharmacy IT strategy group All pharmacy organisations in agreement on a single, market-driven strategy for pharmacy IT A contractors' and suppliers' forum actively driving the development of systems in line with an agreed roadmap.

Other sector leaders backed a joined-up pharmacy IT policy. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said Pharmacy Voice's strategy would support its 2011 information management and technology policy. "The RPS is leading a pan-pharmacy IT group that will proactively consider the professional and ethical IT requirements for the profession as well as recognising how these can work in practice," said RPS director for England Howard Duff.

Numark managing director John D'Arcy pointed out that "joined-up" also meant with the wider NHS. "What is key for pharmacy is recognition and integration – pharmacy should be on a level playing field with other health professionals."

Read Pharmacy Voice's IT strategy in full

Your shout

What C+D readers want from IT

I would like to see a more joined[-up] approach to IT in pharmacy, and for pharmacists to be able to connect to other healthcare services, such as dentistry. It is quite frustrating that we can't access patients' full healthcare records – that's something I'd like to see in future. Emma Lawrence, relief manager, Rowlands Pharmacy, Southsea IT can help you to achieve your aims, but it is still peripheral to what we do – it is the patient who must remain at the centre of everything we do. Using IT to work more closely with other health professionals is all very well but it could also cause problems. If, say, GPs start sharing patient records with pharmacists that could open up a whole can of worms.

Sharing patient records could blur our role and it could end up as a case of who is responsible – the GP or the pharmacist? If you're aware of something, even if you're not involved directly, does that make you negligent if there's a problem – even if you don't take action? Michael Maguire, pharmacy manager, Marton Pharmacy, Middlesbrough

What do you want from IT?

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Nigel Cox, Senior Management

It's not unity on IT that is needed it is on the processes that you want IT to be involved with - to do things the same way. But of course that has always been the challenge in a competative marketplace.

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