Figures revealed at this year’s Pharmacy Show indicate that the average record viewing per pharmacy is "0.3 a week", despite 82% of pharmacies having completed training on SCR access.
Dr Jill Loader, NHS England’s assistant head of primary care commissioning for pharmacy, suggested that many pharmacists are “nervous” at the “big responsibility” of having access to a patient’s medical history, while former Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Ash Soni questioned the messages that some pharmacists were getting when training with the system.
Community pharmacist David Pomfrett said he was told in training that SCR use would be “monitored and I could be asked to justify using it”.
“[It’s] not worth the hassle so [I’m] not using it,” he posted on the C+D website.
Superintendent pharmacist Max Falconer said the issue of liability around records access would need to be clarified before he opted to use the system.
“Before we even talk about using SCR, [we need to] get dispensing errors decriminalised,” he said.
Locum pharmacist Bal Singh agreed and added that the “additional cost” of SCR at a time when the sector is facing an “uncertain future” could explain why many have decided not to ‘go live’ with the rollout.
Avoiding busy GP surgery phone lines
While one pharmacist posting as ‘Barry Pharmacist’ described SCR as “an administrative headache”, community pharmacist Gerry Diamond said having access to more patient information would save time in the long run.
“Community pharmacists just need to be bold and access the records,” he said. “It can really help resolve queries without having to wait for a call back or phone queue to speak to an unhelpful receptionist.”
Contractor and pharmacist Tas Bhatti described having access to the SCR as “excellent”. “Since we went live it has helped us on a daily basis, to support our patients and provide more robust services,” Mr Bhatti said.
Pharmacist Chandra Nathwani admitted to first having reservations before accessing a patient’s record, “mainly due to liability issues”. But after considering the benefits of being able to “clarify an issue” without having to ring the GP surgery, it now saves time “by not having to queue up on the phone trying to get past surgery reception (which at weekends is not possible)”.
Pharmacist Matthew Edwards offered some reassurance for anyone unsure about the requirement to have a privacy officer on site to check pharmacists’ access to the SCR: “Since qualifying, I have used the SCR over 60 times as a way of sorting out problems at weekends,” he said.
“My privacy officer is one of my dispensers and so there are no problems there. Pick a member of staff you know will be diligent and isn't afraid to air their views,” Mr Edwards added.
The low levels of pharmacies that have gone live with SCR – just 38% according to latest NHS Digital figures – suggest that not all pharmacists are convinced of the benefits of patient records access.
But Mr Bhatti advised colleagues to “embrace the opportunity to be better healthcare professionals through the use of better tools.”
“It’s a no brainer. I would not go back to be being without SCR,” he added.
In August, C+D readers blamed "clunky" processes for the slow SCR uptake.