The government has admitted much more work has to be done on patient security and confidentiality concerns, associated with allowing pharmacists access to patient Summary Care Records (SCRs).
It said more discussions and assessment had to take place between various health bodies, in order for a decision to be taken on how to protect the data.
SCRs will contain basic information for healthcare providers on patients’ details, prescriptions and allergies, but more information will be added to them as patients are treated, and this is an area where little detail has been provided.
It has also previously been proposed that the care records could be shared with social services.
In February, it was reported that thousands of smartcards that give NHS staff access to patient records had been lost or stolen.
Late last year the British Medical Association wrote to health minister Ben Bradshaw calling for a halt to the roll-out of patients’ summary care records until the results of pilot projects have been reviewed.
But the government continued to push IT systems further into local pharmacies as part of the £12.4 billion Connecting for Health programme. It said systems such as the Summary Care Records, electronic prescriptions and automated dispensing would play a key role in the future of local pharmacies.
The news came as the Department for Health presented a white paper to parliament, advocating the heavier use of local pharmacies as advisers to patients, enabling patients to have quicker treatment without a doctor’s appointment in non-serious cases, and lifting some of the weight off GPs’ shoulders.
In the paper, entitled ‘Pharmacy in England: Building on strengths, delivering the future’, Dawn Primarolo, minister of state for public health, said that in the future pharmacists would “use new technologies to expand choice and improve care in hospitals and the community”.
But the DfH warned of “specific concerns” over pharmacists’ use of Summary Care Records, designed to provide details such date of birth and address, allergies and current prescriptions to those providing treatment.
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