By Alisdair Stirling
A controversial pilot scheme giving pharmacists access to the Summary Care Record has been suspended by the Department of Health.
The scheme was to allow community pharmacists in NHS Bradford and Airedale full access to Summary Care Records with the aim of rolling out access to pharmacists nationally - in spite of GPs' concerns over patient confidentiality.
However NHS IT chiefs have now decided to shelve the scheme, aimed at assessing benefits for scheduled care services such as medicines use reviews as well as governance and practical arrangements, after two key DH reviews on the Summary Care Record were published at the end of last year.
A DH spokesperson told Pulse: "The current priority of the NHS is to build trust and confidence in the Summary Care Record following reviews of its content and how we communicate with patients.'
‘The NHS Bradford and Airedale project piloting community pharmacy access to the SCR has been paused in light of this so that the NHS, in line with the review outcomes, can focus on establishing the Summary Care Record's use in emergency and urgent care.'
Lindsay McClure, head of information services for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said pharmacists were disappointed by the decision but pledged to continue to push for pharmacies to have access to care records.
‘With patient consent, providing community pharmacists with appropriate access to electronic patient records has the potential to greatly improve patient safety, support the development of new services for patients, improve interdisciplinary working and increase the quality and continuity of care provided to patients,' she said.
But Dr Paul Thornton, a GP in Kingsbury, Warwickshire, said GPs were sceptical about widening access to pharmacists.
‘The assumption that patients want even highly qualified professionals to share information about them is often flawed, and the continuing sharing of information between professionals could inhibit patients from sharing any information with any of us,' he said.
‘Databases can be large, they can be secure and they can be easy to use. But they can only be two of those things at any one time.'
Dr Joanne Bailey, GPC IT subcommittee chair and a member of the DH review team, told Pulse: ‘At the start of the SCR, Connecting for Health was encouraging all kinds of pilot schemes, but our experience so far tells us that it´s better to roll it out in a steady way.'
‘I don´t have specific reservations about giving pharmacists access to SCRs – it could have benefits in the future - but I´d actually be more interested in getting the basics right first.'A pilot giving pharmacists access to the Summary Care Record has been suspended A pilot giving pharmacists access to the Summary Care Record has been suspended