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RPS and Pharmacy Voice argue case for pharmacist access to patient records

“Access” key on computer keyboard

Source: Bjørn Hovdal/

Access to records would enable a more proactive approach to supporting adherence to medicines

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmacy Voice are calling on NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre to give all registered pharmacy professionals full read and write access to the patient health record to improve patient safety.

Publishing their “Professional position statement: access to the patient health record” yesterday (23 December 2013), the two bodies argue that pharmacy professionals have a legitimate need to access patient health records “as the more information available to them when providing care to patients, the better the outcome for patients”.

They add that information is key to reducing medication errors, improving medicines adherence and delivering safe and more effective care to patients.

The statement cites the Caldicott information governance review recommendations that say “for the purposes of direct care, relevant personal confidential data should be shared among the registered and regulated health and social care professionals who have a legitimate relationship with the patient”, as well as the Government’s response that “sharing information to support care is essential”.

The document also references a letter written by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, on 6 November 2013, in which he said: “I am aware of the important role that pharmacists play in supporting the rest of the healthcare system, and am keen to explore how this role could be developed through electronic record sharing… . In particular I would like to see if, when a patient gives permission, it would be possible for a pharmacist to access a GP record in order to give the best possible advice.” (PJ 2013;291:514).

Access would result in fewer hospital admissions

The position statement makes it clear that pharmacist access to patients’ records would enable a more proactive approach to monitoring and supporting adherence to medicines, as well as better sharing of information with other health professionals. This would result in fewer hospital admissions, a reduction in medicines waste and a reduction in adverse effects, the RPS and Pharmacy Voice argue.

In the first instance, the two organisations are calling for all hospital and community pharmacies to have access to patients’ summary care records (SCRs).

They note that although some 40 per cent of hospital pharmacies currently have access to the SCR — which the RPS says has been shown to have “a huge positive impact on the ability to undertake effective medicines reconciliation when a patient comes into the hospital” — there are currently very few community pharmacies that have access to the SCR.

The two bodies believe the benefits to patients would include providing them with a more comprehensive service via community pharmacies. “Read and write access to the patient health record will enable registered pharmacy professionals to check diagnoses and care plans, record advice given to patients on medicines and check/advise other professionals on medicines monitoring issues,” they say.

In addition, they argue that consistent use of information standards to enable data to flow between systems will lead to more accurate urgent and emergency care, more robust records with clearer information about what has been prescribed to patients, smoother transfer of information across care settings, and easier access to patient health records to help identify appropriate patients for studies.

Clarifying their views in the position statement, the RPS and Pharmacy Voice conclude: “We seek appropriate access for registered pharmacy professionals to the patient’s health record only when more information is needed to ensure the provision of safe pharmaceutical care for a patient… . To properly fulfil this role, innovative and creative new ways of working that embrace new technologies and allow read and write access to patient health records are urgently needed.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11132190

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