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Pharmacists to gain access to Summary Care Record

By Nigel Praities

Pharmacists will gain access to the Summary Care Record for the first time under plans by NHS IT chiefs, Pulse can reveal.

In a key step towards Government proposals for pharmacies to take on more clinical work, pilots are being considered in community pharmacies across the country.

The plan has provoked concern among GPs over the confidentiality of patient data, but a spokesperson from Connecting for Health said it was a 'positive move' for the rollout of the hugely delayed care record.

'We have been talking to pharmacists in Bradford about the potential of having pilots in that area. The pilots will involve pharmacists having full access to viewing a patient's summary care record.

'This work and experience will be used to inform a key programme to consider how a community pharmacy's access to the Care Record Service may be achieved nationally,' he said.

Bradford and Airedale Teaching PCT is canvassing local community pharmacists to assess support for the scheme and other PCTs are interested in the scheme, but local GPs admitted they are unsure about the benefits.

Dr Alun Griffiths, a GP in Bradford and an LMC member, said he was very uncomfortable about the plans and was not convinced that the benefits outweighed the risks.

‘If you open access more widely then you have an even greater risk of a loss of confidentiality, particularly in pharmacies where you will be working with other people who live in the same community,' he said.

The move comes as a Department of Health adviser has admitted there is no evidence that extra services in pharmacies will improve patient outcomes.

The Government announced plans for all PCTs to have a pharmacy-run minor ailments service and for pharmacists to provide more help for patients with long-term conditions and conduct vascular screening from April this year.

But Professor Claire Anderson, professor of social pharmacy at the University of Nottingham, has just conducted an updated review of the evidence base for the Government's plans and concludes the evidence is patchy at best.

‘People are doing it but there isn't the evidence. The work has not been evaluated and you don't know the outcome. As the vascular service comes in it would be nice if the NHS commissions research around it so that we can see if it does affect outcomes, because right now we don't know,' she said.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman agreed with the assessment but said the Government would go ahead anyway and GPs would have to work with pharmacists.

‘I have enormous concerns, but is that going to change anything? No,' he said.

Government plans for pharmacy

- PCTs are to ‘review and strengthen' their Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments and have to commission services if they find a local need

- The Government has already launched guidance for the use of medicines use reviews and repeat dispensing services, and more advice will follow regarding how pharmacies can be used to provide new clinical services

- Areas PCTs should look at include cancer screening and sexual health, smoking, long-term conditions, minor ailment services and providing vascular checks

Source: NHS Employers, Primary Care Contracting Pharmacy Paper July 2008

Pharmacists to gain access to the Summary Care Record

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