Six thousand pharmacies across England are now using the Summary Care Record (SCR), according to new data from NHS Digital.

Almost all of the population has 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.

Health chiefs believe that allowing pharmacists access to the record will 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.

Last year, a pilot scheme testing SCR pharmacist access across 140 sites last year found that, in 92 percent 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 percent of cases the risk of medication errors was avoided. But fears over data security and privacy remain.

In any case, uptake of the SCR among community pharmacies in country has now reached 50 percent, NHS Digital said.

"SCR supports the wider role of pharmacy, by providing patient information to support people with long-term conditions or complex drug treatments," it stressed, adding: "It also supports pharmacy to become the first port of call for minor ailments, helping to free up resource within general practice and A&E".