NHS Digital may trial pharmacy access to patient records using a tablet this year

Exclusive: NHS Digital pilot that gives paramedics access to the summary care record on iPads may be extended to pharmacists later in 2019.

Clinician using tablet

Pharmacists could soon access summary care records (SCR) using an Apple iPad rather than a smartcard, under a new NHS Digital pilot.

The scheme, which began on 17 April 2019, allows some London Ambulance Service clinicians, including paramedics, to access a patient’s SCR without a smartcard or an N3 network connection — a secure data network that connects health and care organisations.

The smartcard — a physical card issued by the NHS — is currently used by pharmacists along with a passcode to access the NHS Spine and national or local health record systems.

NHS Digital confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 23 April 2019 that it is “looking at” extending the pilot to include pharmacists “this year” but added that concrete plans have yet to be formed.

In a statement published on 17 April 2019, NHS Digital said that the initial 16-week pilot in Camden, north London, will give 60 clinicians, including paramedics, working for the Camden Ambulance Station access to SCR data through the new NHS Identity platform.

The platform, which has been in development since January 2018, will provide users with a securely authenticated “digital identity” that can be used to log in over the internet to the NHS Spine, through which the SCR is accessed.

SCR data include information on patients’ long-term conditions; significant medical history; ongoing prescriptions; known allergies; and any other specific needs.

Following the pilot, NHS Digital added that iPad access to the SCR will be rolled out to all frontline London Ambulance Service clinicians, while “project teams are also looking to pilot with different care settings”, including pharmacy.

The pilot has been launched after NHS Digital data analysed by The Pharmaceutical Journal in October 2018 revealed that more than 85% of community pharmacies did not access the SCR at all over a typical week owing to a lack of time and not enough information on the records.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said the use of iPads to access the SCR “is definitely worth trialling”.

“Computers in pharmacies undergo heavy use and a dedicated iPad would potentially mean that the system is quicker and easier to access,” she said. “However, there still needs to be some sort of secure log in system to preserve patient confidentiality, but I am sure such issues are being considered.

“It would also mean that pharmacists could more easily provide domiciliary services which could be of great benefit to housebound patients.”

Mike Walker, programme lead at NHS Digital who is responsible for overseeing the development of NHS Identity and the mobile SCR application, said: “This mobile solution has been implemented very quickly in a real-world environment, providing meaningful insight that will inform future direction.

“We hope to see that this brings real benefits to the working day of medics, A&E staff and, most importantly, to patients.”

Access to the SCR will also be extended to Android and Windows devices after the pilot.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2019, Vol 302, No 7925;302(7925):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206464

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