The Daily Telegraph has published a sensationalist story again attacking what is happening in the National Health Service. This time, the target is the proposed sharing of GPs’ summary care records with community pharmacists. The summary care records contain GP’s details about patients including their medicines and medical history. The newspaper quoted concerns from privacy organisations who apparently sought to put fear into the public by suggesting that this would lead to targeted marketing. However, Paul Gershlick, Head of Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP’s Life Sciences and Healthcare sector group, reacted by saying this missed the point and did not give a balanced piece about the purpose for sharing the summary care records.

Paul Gershlick said, “Community pharmacy has so much to offer the National Health Service. As the NHS is creaking, with an annual funding shortfall of £22bn by 2020 even if the Government provides an extra £8bn a year, greater use of community pharmacy is one way of easing the pressure on other parts of the system (such as GPs) and improving patients’ outcomes. Pharmacists undergo several years of training and are very strictly regulated with strong ethics, are one of the most trusted professions and are highly accessible to the public, so they provide an obvious choice to help patients manage their medicine use. There has rightly long been a drive towards giving community pharmacy a greater role in providing treatment for people’s health, and it is highly desirable if not essential to enable them to have access to GPs’ records of the patient to enable them to advise on patients’ medicines and their side effects. It has been estimated that pharmacists can save the NHS over £1bn a year and pharmacists need to obtain patients’ consent before looking at their summary care record, so why the imbalanced negative spin?

“In addition, the newspaper was wrong when it described the scheme as “a forerunner to a controversial, and much delayed, national scheme which will see fuller details from GP consultations held on a central database, unless patients opt out”. The project was about something totally different – the use of anonymised patient data not by pharmacists but by others in the NHS and potentially pharmaceutical companies to assess and consider the impact of people’s care including medicines with people’s different circumstances and conditions, together with the safety and adverse effects of medicines, so that care can be improved through an increased understanding of what actually happens to the patient. That is not the same as the sharing of the summary care record for a named patient with community pharmacy to enable community pharmacy to provide services that the patient has asked for.”

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One Response to Daily Telegraph sensationalist story misses the point about pharmacists’ potential to help NHS, says Head of MAB Life Sciences & Healthcare Sector

  1. Firstly I emphasise the fact that pharmacists are obliged and bound to keep all information relating to patients confidential and any staff within the pharmacy can access any patient data on a need to know basis. They have very stringent Information Governance regulations to adhere to.

    The need for a pharmacist to access care records is in the interest of the patient. The pharmacist will only I believe be able to have this access with the permission of the patient.
    The pharmacy is a safety net for patients in case the prescriber may have overlooked changes in the patients treatment or may have overlooked side effects or contraindications that could have fatal consequences. At present Care Records are not available to the pharmacists so they are supplying and advising the patients on their treatment with very limited information about their healthcare.

    So let me give an example. A patient may be on Warfarin (important to prevent clotting) and may have visited the clinic for a blood test to check their dosage needs. The repeat prescription clerk may issue a prescription for an incorrect dosage. The doctor who may sign the prescription not realising that there is change to the dosage. If the pharmacist had access to the records this is likely to be picked up and queried.

    Another scenario is when patients are hospitalised. Their treatment is invariably reassessed and changed. They are then sent back home and the doctor notified of this change. If this is not picked up a repeat prescription for the old medication may be issued. Again if the pharmacist had access to the records this would be picked up.

    The above two examples are real life situations but there are plenty more.

    For anyone to suggest that this access to Care Records to the pharmacist will be misused is frankly out of order. The benefits far outweigh any possible misuse of this information.
    Pharmacists are after all professionals and always have the well being of the patients at heart. Anything that will help them do this will only benefit the patient and the NHS by preventing serious harm.

    Would you not want your pharmacist to be better informed about your treatment to help you get the most out of your medication?

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