Granting pharmacists access to patient records can cut referrals to other healthcare professionals by three quarters, the findings from an NHS England pilot have revealed.
An NHS England initiative to allow 130 pharmacies in five regions to view patients’ summary care records (SCR) had found that 74 per cent of encounters where a pharmacist accessed the SCR would otherwise have involved a referral to a healthcare professional, most likely a GP, said project lead Mohammed Hussain.
More than half of pharmacists who had access to the SCR said the system had helped to avoid patient harm, said Mr Hussain. “This could be anything from giving an emergency supply to identifying a prescribing error [or] missed items,” he told delegates at an event organised by think tank The King’s Fund last week (March 17).
Mr Hussain said NHS England was still “number crunching” the data from the pilot, which launched in October. The scheme was due to end at the end of the month and NHS England still had “some work to do to ensure it can continue beyond that”, Mr Hussain said.
Meeting patient needs
Initial findings from the pilot also showed that 87 per cent of encounters that involved SCR access had resulted in the pharmacist judging that the patient’s needs had been met at the time, he stressed. More data from the pilot would be shared in future, but this would “take time”, Mr Hussain said.
Independent Pharmacy Federation chair Fin McCaul said pharmacists’ access to patient records was “a no-brainer”. There had been “some frustration” among attendees at the King's Fund event by a suggestion that pharmacists across England would not have access for another two years and the sector needed to “look at plans to enable that roll-out quicker and sooner”, he added.
NHS England chief pharmaceutical officer Bruce Warner stressed that the real “game-changer” would be when pharmacists were allowed to amend records. “Once [pharmacists] can write in those records, what pharmacy does becomes visible,” he told the event.
Last year, pharmacists told C+D that the estimated five-year wait before they could amend patient records was "too long".