Pharmacy bodies have hit back at a “wholly misleading” national newspaper article that warned pharmacy chains could “exploit” access to patient records.
The Daily Telegraph’s front page yesterday (August 10) highlighted concerns by campaign group medConfidential that “high street pharmacies such as Boots, Tesco and Superdrug" will “exploit” planned access to the summary care record (SCR) to “push sales of their products”.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), and Pharmacy Voice said it is inaccurate to suggest "commercial companies" will have access to the SCR, in a joint letter partially published in today's edition of the paper (August 11).
Pharmacists accessing records as part of a rollout across England from autumn will only be able to do so with patient consent, the organisations said.
"Private medical information will never be linked to a patient's store loyalty cards or any marketing promotions,” they added.
NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said yesterday that the newspaper article – which reported medConfidential's concerns that the public would be "exposed to heavy marketing tactics" as a result of records access – contains a “number of inaccuracies”.
“SCR can only be accessed through a secure, encrypted private network by authorised pharmacy professionals. It is not accessible by other means and will never be available to supermarkets for other purposes,” they said in a joint statement.
If pharmacists share confidential patient information “for any purpose other than direct care”, they can lose their licence to practise, the organisations added.
Patients not consulted
The Daily Telegraph article claimed that health officials drew up the plans to send “sensitive data” from GP surgeries to pharmacies “without considering the views of patients”, following a pilot that gave 140 pharmacies access to the SCR from September 2014 until March this year.
The paper pointed to a report on the pilot in June, in which HSCIC said the views of 15 patients had been received. These were then disregarded because of their low number, HSCIC said in the report.
But HSCIC and NHS England said yesterday that the pilot had been endorsed by patient groups including the Patients Association, Parkinson's UK, Age UK and National Voices. Local patient groups in pilot areas were also “supportive” of the plans, NHS England and HSCIC said.
General Pharmaceutical Council chief executive Duncan Rudkin assured patients yesterday that pharmacists had a responsibility to respect patients’ privacy and hold their records securely.