Summary care records – an essential for pharmacists

Ash_Soni_0411By Ash Soni, Vice-Chair, English Pharmacy Board

Access to patients’ summary care records is transforming the services I provide in my pharmacy. I can read and add to my patients records and I’d like all pharmacists to be able to do the same.

Thanks to a special arrangement with a GP surgery, I can see information about a patient’s medicines, their allergies, existing illnesses and any bad reactions to drugs they’ve had. The summary care record gives me the full picture of their needs and enables me to have informed conversations with my patients and others involved in their care.

Digital patient records are now used by the vast majority of GP practices and many pharmacists working in hospitals have access to them too. It’s now time to get the technology right so they can be provided to your high street pharmacist too so we can provide the best care possible.

Healthcare professionals keep records of patient care to ensure the safety, quality, consistency and continuity of that care. They also help the professional respond to any questions that might come up about the treatment a patient has received. This responsibility is best performed when the professional has as much relevant information to hand as possible.

When people find that different information is held about them in different locations they often wonder if anyone really knows what’s going on with their care. Having to explain your details again and again as you move around the NHS doesn’t inspire confidence and makes it much easier to forget something which could be important.

Access to summary care records is essential for the development of effective clinical services in community pharmacy. I believe the future of the profession lies in building up these services and it will be impossible to do this effectively without widespread access to the records we need to do the job.

Patients who have used our services are surprised that we don’t always have access to their record as a matter of course.

Reliable information is particularly important when a patient needs emergency or unplanned care. The recent problems with NHS 111 highlight how, with access to patient records, community pharmacy could provide an excellent alternative for emergency care. An individual could be assessed and referred to community pharmacy safe in the knowledge that the pharmacist could fully consider their needs with all the necessary details to hand.  It’s frustrating people aren’t advised to use their pharmacists more in this regard.

All health professionals need to be more connected and better informed in order to provide the best and safest care that they can. Pharmacy IT systems should link with those in GP surgeries, NHS Walk-in Centres, hospitals and anywhere else that patients visit to receive treatment. True partnership with our patients and with other health professionals would result with the outcome being high quality, effective care for all.