One pharmacist cut down on calls to their local GP practice from 200 to just 30 a month after being given access to the practice's summary care records (SCRs), according to Harpreet Shergill, NHS Digital's lead for rolling the scheme out across community pharmacy.
With some practices having up to five pharmacies working with them, this has the potential to drastically cut down on GP workloads once the technology beds down, he said.
Mr Shergill, who is himself a pharmacist, said the move marked the ‘biggest single change in pharmacy in the last 10 years’ – with early data showing some pharmacies access the system up to 70 times a week.
‘Having access to this information empowers me as a pharmacist to provide care back to patients,’ he told a King's Fund event on emerging models in primary care last week.
He said it allowed his pharmacy to sort ‘92% of cases’ with patients on-site, without having to direct them back to their GP.
Patient record access
The initiative also means that pharmacies are not reliant on practices being open to deal with certain enquiries, allowing issues to be sorted in the evening and on Sundays.
To access the system, a pharmacist must use an NHS smartcard to see the patient’s information. This action is logged to show when the SCR is accessed and by whom and requires the patient’s verbal consent.
Around 41% of pharmacies are enabled to use SCRs so far, with plans for them all to be live by the end of March 2017.
Having access to the SCR means pharmacists can see information about any medicines prescribed, the strength and quantity of treatment and the date they were issued. They can also see information about allergies and adverse drug reactions. This enables them to deal with patient queries about their treatment or prescriptions.
‘Having access to this technology and this subset of the GP patient record allows me to contribute directly to patient care and support primary care in the provision of that care,’ said Mr Shergill.
‘Historically, by not having access to the SCR, that would have necessitated a phone call to the practice, a conversation with the receptionist – or even with the GP. Access to the information can quickly cut through all that and give clarity to patient.
‘We used to ring our local GP practice probably 200 times a month with all these queries around patients, prescriptions and medication. After the SCR was introduced and we got used to the technology, that call volume fell to 30 calls per month.
‘That’s an 80% reduction in calls going in to that GP practice. So, if I'm a GP practice – and I had five pharmacies surrounding me locally – then how many calls are coming into my practice? How much time is being taken up by reception having to filter those calls, then deciding what needs to happen?
‘The second benefit is because we’re solving this in-pharmacy, there's a reduction in unplanned patient visits and footfall into GP practices.’