You may have seen an article in the Telegraph, Boots, Tesco and Superdrug to get access to NHS medical records. I’d like to put some of the inaccuracies right and reassure you of the facts that are behind this story, with links to responses from relevant organisations followed by a brief discussion.
The facts about pharmacy access to medical records
To listen to the facts instead, see the link to pharmacist Cathryn Brown’s radio interview under Other responses
These corporate organisations such as Tesco, will not have access to your medical records and they are neither being sold, nor given, to these companies in bulk. The supermarket or pharmacy chain itself will not be able to access your records at all, for marketing or any other purpose.
Only the pharmacist and pharmacy technicians dispensing your prescription may have access, via a pin-protected access card, which is similar to your bank card. You will be in control of whether the pharmacy professionals can access your record because your explicit consent will be required at each occasion, to comply with the Data Protection Act.
If you give consent, your Summary Care Record (SCR) will be available to view. This only contains the medication you take, any allergies and any adverse reactions to medicines you have had in the past. It doesn’t contain conversations you’ve had with your GP or your diagnoses. You are able to opt out completely of having a SCR, though this information may be helpful when you use other services, such as Out Of Hours and A&E services. To opt out, or to opt back in, contact your GP surgery. The SCR is completely unrelated to care.data.
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are held to account by our regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), and we are bound by our Code of Conduct, Ethics & Performance. The code includes patient confidentiality and putting patient safety and the interests of the patient above all else. Sharing your information with anyone not directly involved in your care is against the law and the pharmacy professional would be struck off the GPhC register and unable to practise in future.
The report from the pilot project referred to in the Telegraph article is available in the public domain on the Health and Social Care Information Centre website here. The SCR access for pharmacists has been approved by several health and patient charities, including Patients Association, Parkinsons UK, Age UK, National Voices, Diabetes UK and Asthma UK and their views can be read on this RPS web page.
There have also been responses to the Telegraph by the following:
- Health and Social Care Information Centre
- Royal Pharmaceutical Society (pharmacy’s professional body) letter to the Telegraph, in conjunction with Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and Pharmacy Voice
- Cathryn Brown, a locum community pharmacist, explains pharmacy access to SCRs on BBC Lancashire. Available until Wed 9th September (now expired)
As people with M.E., we are well aware of the way the media can twist information and get the wrong end of the stick, especially if there is the potential for the story to be controversial or sensational. This is what sells newspapers but in my view it is irresponsible to distort the facts and cause alarm within the general public and I think this news story is guilty of that.
I am currently writing a blog series with information about pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, training required, responsibilities and services that we provide, which will be used by Action for M.E., the charity I work with as a Volunteer Pharmacist. This is in addition to the resource on M.E. for pharmacy teams that we’re creating. In the meantime, click on these links to go to the relevant information about what pharmacy professionals do on the GPhC website and the RPS website, or read about M.E. on the Action for M.E. website.
Clinical checking is part of the community pharmacist’s job, and this is to make sure your medicine is safe for you to use with your conditions (in case of contraindications) and other medication (in case of interactions), so having access to your SCR, if you consent at the time, will improve patient safety and the information you can be given about your medication. Community pharmacists have to do this clinical check already but only based on what medication you have had previously at that particular pharmacy, not your medical records, and so are doing this without the full information available to them.
Being able to be open about your medication history, including previous bad reactions to medicines, via your SCR allows your pharmacy professionals to give the best care and advice. This is especially the case out of hours, when the prescriber cannot be contacted to check an issue with your prescription or if you are at a different pharmacy from usual. There are many other reasons it will be helpful to have access to your SCR, as detailed on this page by RPS and by the health and patient charities consulted. There is also a good video of the advantages of the SCR for patients here on YouTube..
If you like this article, please consider donating to the charity I work with as Volunteer Pharmacist. Text EBME99 £3/£5/£10 to 70070 or visit my JustGiving page.