Community pharmacists’ use of summary care records (SCRs) increased by 30% in 2020, according to viewing figures analysed by The Pharmaceutical Journal.
The figures published by NHS Digital showed that pharmacists in England accessed patients’ SCRs a total of 1,088,459 times in 2020 — an increase from 843,084 times in 2019.
However, with pharmacists having dispensed more than 1.028 billion items in 2020, this equates to checking the SCR once for every 945 items.
This comes as NHS Digital continues to roll out access to the SCR without the need for a smartcard, using the SCR application (SCRa).
SCRa was first piloted with the London Ambulance Service in April 2019, and was later implemented in two Weldwick’s pharmacies in August 2019, where users could access SCRs on an iPad and have their identity authenticated using the device’s biometric security features.
NHS Digital told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 26 April 2021 that the pilot has since been expanded to additional users across three sites.
It added that further SCRa pilots are also ongoing, using desktop devices at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust and The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.
However, leading online pharmacy Pharmacy2U was recorded as having accessed the SCR just 68 times in 2020, despite having dispensed 11.3 million items that year.
Online pharmacy Echo — which saw a rapid growth in patient nominations through the electronic prescription service — accessed the SCR 79 times in 2020, while dispensing 4.9 million items.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,300 LloydsPharmacy branches — which are owned by the same parent company as Echo, McKesson — viewed patients’ SCRs 37,988 times, when dispensing 99.4 million items.
A spokesperson for Echo said the SCR views for Echo and LloydsPharmacy should not be compared “due to the different nature of distance-selling pharmacy”.
They said Echo pharmacists “check the SCR where appropriate and when the required information can’t be confirmed directly with patients or their GP via their own communication channels and technologically advanced in-house clinical systems”.
They added that “unlike bricks and mortar pharmacies, Echo does not provide acute face-to-face services and hadn’t had to check patients’ shielding status during the pandemic because all Echo patients are eligible for free delivery”.
In April 2020, NHS Digital added a ‘shielded patient flag’ to the SCR of patients regarded as clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, making them eligible for free home delivery during the pandemic.
Commenting on the increased use of SCR overall, Helga Mangion, policy manager at the National Pharmacy Association, said: “It’s great to see more community pharmacies accessing SCRs, as an enabler for safe and effective patient care.
“However, read-write access to full patient records would help underpin clinical decisions and achieve more seamless care, as well as helping pharmacists address questions and concerns.”
The Pharmaceutical Journal approached Pharmacy2U for comment.