GPs: Pharmacists should have read-write access to basic information
By Neil Trainis
Leading figures in general practice have warned pharmacists’ read-write access to patients’ records should come with the proviso that personal medical information remains private and confidential – with one GP suggesting pharmacists should only be given access to basic information.
The Royal College of General Practitioners chair professor Kamila Hawthorne this week told Pulse that “patient safety and confidentiality must continue to be a priority” when patient records are shared between general practice and pharmacy.
NHS England’s plan for improving access to primary care, which included a pledge to provide £645 million over two years to help community pharmacy roll out a pharmacy first service and contraception and hypertension case-finding services, will see pharmacists given read-write access by the end of the year.
Professor Hawthorne said she was in favour of that but insisted it needed to be underpinned by “appropriate, robust safety and safeguarding measures” so that “the high standards general practice places on patient privacy” are preserved.
Dr Neil Bhatia, a GP and records access lead at Oakley Health Group, appeared to go further by suggesting that “in line with current data protection principles,” pharmacists should only have access to “basic information” such as “allergies, medication and relevant or important diagnosis.”
He told Pulse: “It certainly would be clinically important that they have access to relevant information, so that they don’t start someone on medication that is contraindicated.”
The Company Chemists’ Association chief executive Malcolm Harrison told Independent Community Pharmacist he agreed that “appropriate, robust safety and safeguarding measures should be used to maintain high standards of patient privacy.”
“Patient safety and the confidentiality of patient information is of paramount importance to all healthcare professionals,” he said, adding many IT systems used by community pharmacies “actually have higher standards of security and governance than those currently used by other parts of the health system.”
“There are agreed standards for patient information developed by the Professional Records Standards Body, endorsed by both the CCA and the Royal College of General Practitioners,” he said.
“It is vital that pharmacists have the appropriate information they need for the care they are providing and as their clinical care expands so will the information required.
“Similarly, sharing information with general practice will become ever more important. It is important that all parties involved in implementing the government's plans for primary care do so armed with facts, and not fears based upon assumptions.”
English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind told ICP it was vital that pharmacists can “access and update a clinical record wherever they may work.”
“The Covid-19 vaccination programme showed just how important it is for pharmacists to be able to update a patient’s record about their care,” she said.