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RPS Scotland tells Government: 'digital divide' and access to records must be addressed

Community pharmacist access to patients’ electronic health records is now an “urgent patient safety concern”, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland.

The Society made the statement in response to the Scottish Government’s Health and Sport Committee consultation on Technology and Innovation in the NHS, which was open for views from 31 May 2017 to 12 July 2017.

In its response, the Society went on to say that: “access to the Emergency Care Summary was promised for community pharmacists by 2014 and this has not yet been actioned”.

The Committee opened the inquiry to seek views on the Scottish Government’s current approach to eHealth, and on its draft vision for the future of digital health and social care in Scotland.

While recognising the achievements of the existing Scottish Government’s eHealth and telecare/telehealth strategies, including community pharmacist access to NHS Mail, the Society’s response highlighted areas of eHealth where it felt patients and pharmacists need more to be done.

“Secure authentication to allow patients to access services and view medical records has been promised but not yet delivered,” the response says, and adds that “’online services’ to allow patients to access basic services such as ordering prescriptions and making and cancelling appointments are only available sporadically for patients in Scotland”.

Describing a “digital divide”, the Society says that rural areas still suffer “a lack of mobile and internet access”, and that “the combination of poor connectivity and limited ICT [information and communication technology] skills can lead to digital exclusion for many of the people who arguably, require access to health services and online information, the most”. The statement also argues that a “stable IT infrastructure across the whole of Scotland with fully functioning, ultra-fast 4G mobile networks” is a requirement for effective, full read-and-write access to electronic health records.

Alex MacKinnon, RPS director for Scotland, said: “Our response highlights that in order to achieve a modern health service that fully meets the needs of patients, the public, health professionals and the NHS, pharmacists must be able to work with other colleagues across health and social care to provide innovative models of digital, person-centred care. This means sharing of information with supporting infrastructure and appropriate access to the patient’s electronic record.”

RPS Scotland also contributed to a collaborative response to the inquiry, together with primary care professional bodies including the Royal College of GPs and the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland. As well as reiterating calls for full read-and-write access to electronic health records, the collaborative response emphasised a collective approach to Scottish eHealth in which “the public, patients, carers and health professionals are directly involved in the development, design and the decision making … in new technology enabled health and social care services”.

The Health and Sport Committee is due to publish its Digital Health and Social Care Strategy 2017–2020 at the end of 2017.

The full response from RPS Scotland to the consultation can be read here.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203257

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