Community pharmacists are to get access to Summary Care Records under new plans unveiled this week by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

More than 96% of the population have an SCR, which provides key, up-to-date clinical information sourced from the GP record 24 hours a day, but can only by accessed by authorised healthcare professionals with the patient's consent to support and direct care.

The general concept behind the move is to equip pharmacists with the means to provide better informed and tailored care to patients and thus draw them closer into the delivery of healthcare, in the hope of taking some of the heat off of over-stretched GPs.

The move comes on the back of pilot scheme testing SCR pharmacist access across 140 sites, which found that, in 92% of cases where the record was accessed by a pharmacist, patients did not need to be sent elsewhere in the National Health Service. Also, in 18% of cases the risk of medication errors was avoided.

£7.5 million for training and tools

HSCIC will work in partnership with NHS England and other organisations to plan implementation of the scheme, which is targeted for the autumn of this year, while the government is sinking £7.5 million into giving community pharmacists the training and tools they need for this. 

Welcoming the move, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Pharmacy Voice and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee jointly said that widening access to health information to community pharmacy will enable safer, better and more accessible care. 

Also, to allay fears over the security of the data, the groups stressed “patients can be assured their records are safe, as they can only be accessed by a registered pharmacist or pharmacy technician using an NHS smartcard and PIN, and then only after the patient has given consent”.