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Technician suspension highlights how records can be misused

David Reissner: SCR access may be audited in future to prevent wrongful access

The additional patient information available through the summary care record (SCR) could "increase the risk" of inappropriate use, a lawyer has warned in response to a fitness-to-practise case.

David Reissner, partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said SCR access may have to be audited in the future to prevent the inappropriate use of patient records. This kind of access “may not always be easy to detect”, he told C+D yesterday (November 23).

If SCR abuse is found to be common, fitness-to-practise committees could impose “more severe sanctions" to act as a deterrent, he added.

It is “not possible” to tell whether inappropriate SCR access is common because “we only know about the pharmacists or technicians who have been caught”, Mr Reissner pointed out. 

Case study

Mr Reissner made the comments in light of a recent fitness-to-practise case in which a hospital pharmacy technician was suspended for four months for accessing the patient records of people close to her, "without good reason" for doing so.

Laura Louise Claire Smith (née Chilton), registration number 5012055, accessed the SCR of one of her relatives and a person she had “previously been close to”, the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) fitness-to-practise committee heard on October 4.

Ms Smith was working as a pharmacy technician at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham when she accessed the records in 2015, the GPhC heard. She “readily admitted” to these actions when questioned by her employer and “demonstrated remorse and regret from the very beginning of the investigation”, it noted.

The regulator accepted that Ms Smith’s judgement was impaired “because of very significant stresses and turmoil in her personal life”. There was no evidence that her actions were motivated “by malice”, and she had been honest about the situation from the beginning, it said.

She had – "of her own initiative" – also apologised to her employer, colleagues and the two people whose records she accessed, the GPhC noted. Both patients had forgiven her for this, it added.

But the GPhC stressed that Ms Smith had accessed “sensitive medical information…deliberately [and] without good reason”. It said the public must be reassured that patient confidentiality is taken seriously by the profession, and decided to suspend Ms Smith for four months.

Read the full determination here.

In September, NHS England’s assistant head of primary care Dr Jill Loader lamented the low levels of SCR views since the national roll-out of the scheme. Read more here

How often do you access SCR?

Chris Green, Hospital pharmacist

We use the SCR in hospital and we are also subject to audit and checks it's being used appropriately.  So please don't feel got at - it's the same for everyone, and sadly, this illustrates why.

Locum House, Locum pharmacist

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SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

Don't know about any one else, but why make achieving payments difficult? Who in their right mind would access the SCR say 40 times in the first 6 months to find they have to keep exceeding the previous one each time. Best stick to absolute minimum access ! In fact the payment is a disincentive to access the SCR !!

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

In time could be seen as another target. As April approaches spurious reasons for accessing SCR would need to be made up to enable payment. Sound like your MURs anyone.....

Kevin Cheng, Community pharmacist

Unfortunately, we would have to start using SCR more regularly as it is part of the new contract as it is one of the quality payment criteria. I wonder if there would be an increase of investigations into access of SCR as there could be questionable access of SCR just to satisfy this quality payment criteria

Sharon Stone, Communications

Well it isn't right what she did but look how The guardian highlights how MUR's can be misused.  This poor woman is receiving as much bad press as Boots but they're off scott free and still vacuuming up vast sums ???    Somethings wrongs somewhere.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Very encouraging news. I'm sure it'll inspire us all to use the SCR a bit more.

I was subject to an audit recently for using it on a Sat afternoon to check if a prescription had been processed by the surgery for an elderly patient. I had to explain my reasons and prove consent had been attained. That was the first and last time I used it. Why can't the sharing of appropriate information between relevant healthcare professionals within the NHS be incorporated into the agreement a patient makes with their surgery? This is Big Brother gone mad when we are treated like criminals for simply doing our jobs.

Is it any wonder the uptake among pharmacists has been dismal - average record viewing per pharmacy is "0.3 a week".

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