Giving pharmacies access to NHS medical records of customers would ‘enormously improve outcomes for patients’, Boots boss says
- Pharmacy patient record access would ease pressure on GPs, Seb James said
- Boots is also keen to start conducting annual pharmacy health checks
- The Government is currently finalising its primary care recovery plan
Pharmacies should have access to customers’ NHS medical records so they can deliver more care and ease pressure on GPs, the boss of Boots says.
Seb James, managing director of the High Street chain, said giving his staff permission to read and write notes would ‘enormously improve outcomes for patients’.
He acknowledged a ‘lot of people’ struggle to access a family doctor and wants ministers to give pharmacists the power to take on some of the work.
Speaking at the Rewired digital health conference in London yesterday, Mr James said it would ‘improve the ease of access to medicine at a time when the NHS has never been under so much pressure’.
Seb James, managing director of Boots (pictured above), said giving his pharmacy staff permission to read and write notes would ‘enormously improve outcomes for patients’
Speaking at the Rewired digital health conference in London yesterday, Mr James said it would ‘improve the ease of access to medicine at a time when the NHS has never been under so much pressure’
He said his firm would be willing to conduct annual health checks and help patients manage their mental health, heart disease, diabetes and pain.
The intervention comes as the government is finalising its primary care recovery plan, which will detail how it plans to improve access to GPs.
Mr James said: ‘Just as we can advise our customers which skincare product might be suitable for them – patient care should be personalised and seamless, offering complete continuity between hospital, GPs and the local pharmacy.
‘Not only would this take critical strain out of the NHS system, but it would also crucially make it easier for patients to get access to the care and services they need.
What is included in my NHS health record?
The information in your records can include your:
- Age and address
- Health conditions
- Treatments and medicines
- Allergies and past reactions to medicines
- Tests, scans and X-ray results
- Specialist care, such as maternity or mental health
- Lifestyle information, such as whether you smoke or drink
- Hospital admission and discharge information
‘One way to help facilitate this is the better sharing of patient data between community pharmacy and the NHS.
‘With patient consent, better data sharing could transform the way healthcare services are delivered.’
Boots already has access to vast amounts of data on its customers, thanks to its Advantage card loyalty scheme, which has 15million users.
The firm also processes 200million prescriptions a year, Mr James said.
Combining the data the firm already holds on customers with that in NHS medical records could ‘generate something which is much greater than the sum of its parts’, he added.
He highlighted a recent study by Imperial College London that found a link between a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and a pattern of buying over the counter painkillers and indigestion drugs.
The research used data from consenting customers’ Advantage card records.
Mr James said: ‘We live in a world today where we are massively siloed where pharmacy primary care, secondary care and social care are completely separate universes, where often we regard each other as competitors, not as friends.
‘And that must stopped in my view.
‘I think we really need to think about the patient outcome from end to end, somebody with a condition is not going to be concerned about which pot of funding is being used to serve their condition.
‘They’re going to be thinking about how do I serve my needs as well as I possibly can.
‘If we can get that right, if we can, for instance, do something as simple as community pharmacy being able to read and write to a patient records, we will enormously improve outcomes for patients we will enormously improve the ease of access to medicine at a time when the NHS has never been under so much pressure.’
Boots would be willing to conduct annual health checks and help patients manage their mental health, heart disease, diabetes and pain, Seb James said
The Company Chemists Association, which represents major pharmacy firms, has called for more NHS funding so chemists can expand the services they offer.
It estimates up to 30.5 million GP appointments could be freed up each year by shifting more care to pharmacies.
Mr James said: ‘I think that there could be an expanded role for pharmacy more generally.
‘We know that a lot of people are finding it difficult to to contact their GPs to make appointments etc.
‘Why can we not as community pharmacy help by supporting patients with diabetes and a whole range of other areas.
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‘We know these patients, they come and collect their medicine from us.
‘We could do the annual checks. We can do the management we could communicate with the primary care provider.
‘And I think that would be a very exciting thing to do, particularly as it would be more caring for patients.
‘The same is true for cardiovascular disease, for pain management, for mental health management, and for a whole range of other long term conditions where I think if we were properly thinking about the patient, we would do this differently.
‘And we would do it in a way that was much more much more patient centric and that would also alleviate pressure on GPs.’
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, chair of the Royal College of GPs, backed Mr James’ call for pharmacists to be given access to patients’ NHS records.
She said: ‘Giving healthcare professionals across the NHS, including pharmacists, access to relevant information as part of a shared patient record could both improve patients’ experience of healthcare as it would promote better continuity of care, ensure information is easily available to clinicians consulting with patients, and help reduce the admin burden on GPs, freeing up time to spend with patients.
‘However, for this to work safely and efficiently, data security and appropriate safeguards for clinical information would need to be in place.
‘Patient information that is relevant for one healthcare professional may not be relevant for another, so serious consideration would need to be given to ensure healthcare professionals only have access to information appropriate to their area of care.
‘There also needs to be strong professional oversight of entries to patient records, contemporaneous entry of information into patients’ notes, and a clear audit trail of any changes made.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Pharmacies in England already have access to Summary Care Records, which contain patient information such as current medications and allergies.
‘We are working with the NHS to explore are explore how this can be expanded to offer pharmacists’ wider access to patient records and allow them to add to them as they deliver more clinical services.’
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