Pharmacies to have ‘seamless’ access to patient records under NHS digital reforms

The 'Plan for digital health and social care' has set out a range of digital reforms to be rolled out within the NHS over the next ten years.
Close-up of the hand of a female pharmacist, holding the pack of a prescribed medicine, looking at a computer screen

Community pharmacies in England will have “seamless” access to patient records by March 2025, the government has said.

In its ‘Plan for digital health and social care’, published on 29 June 2022, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) set out a range of digital reforms to be implemented within the NHS over the next ten years.

These include developing a “life-long, joined up health and care record” for patients to “improve the quality, safety and productivity of care”.

The plan says that, by March 2025, “all clinical teams in an ICS [integrated care system] will have appropriate and secure access to a complete view of a person’s health record, including their medications and key aspects of their history”.

“To address clinical needs, record-sharing through electronic patient records should be available to relevant staff in all settings, including community midwives and health visitors.

“In particular, primary care networks, including their partners in third-sector organisations, pharmacies, high-street optometrists, and community diagnostic centres, will benefit from the seamless flow of data between frontline teams,” it continues.

In February 2022, the government published plans to ensure all constituent organisations within an ICS “are connected to a shared care record by 2024”, but told The Pharmaceutical Journal that community pharmacy teams would not be prioritised for access.

The government’s digital plan for the NHS also set targets to improve access to electronic prescribing, including enabling people to track their GP prescriptions in the NHS App by December 2022 and expanding the electronic prescription service into secondary care by March 2024.

In May 2022, NHS England told delegates at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress that the first system supplier for delivering the electronic prescription service (EPS) in secondary care would be approved in early June 2022, with further suppliers to deliver the service by the end of the year.

In 2020, three hospital trusts in England piloted the EPS — which will enable hospital outpatient prescriptions to be sent electronically to patients’ nominated community pharmacy — using a primary care computer system, in an effort to support COVID-19 outpatients.

Daniel Ah-Thion, community pharmacy IT policy manager for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, welcomed the DHSC’s digital plan, “particularly its commitment to supporting the rollout of shared care records in community pharmacy, access to which all the evidence suggests greatly improves the quality of care that pharmacies can provide”.

Simon Bolton, chief executive at NHS Digital, said: “The NHS App has changed the way millions of adults in England access healthcare services in the three years since its launch and these new features will go further to improve how patients can manage their health and to reduce the burden on the frontline.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2022, Vol 309, No 7963;309(7963)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.148744

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