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 care.data 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.”