Granting local pharmacists access to summary information from GP patient cuts administration time in dealing with pharmacists by as much as 80% in some cases, according to NHS Digital.
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.
Shergill is 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.
Shergill, who works as a pharmacist as well, stated that the new policy represents the “biggest single change in pharmacy in the last 10 years”.
And early data indicates that some pharmacies access the system as many as 70 times a week.
Shergill spoke at a King’s Fund event on emerging models in primary care, and suggested that “having access to this information empowers me as a pharmacist to provide care back to patients”.
Recent reports have suggested that many pharmacies face closure following new government regulations.
But the government has indicated its belief that there are two many pharmacies operating in Britain.
Clearly this is a critical time for this valuable part of the healthcare system.
Meanwhile, the new initiative will ensure that pharmacies are not reliant on practices being open to deal with certain enquiries.
This will enable allowing issues to be addressed in the evening and on Sundays.
A smart card system has been put in place for system access.
Around 41% of pharmacies are enabled to use SCRs so far.
And all pharmacies should be live on the system by the end of March 2017.
And Shergill was enthusiastic about the potential of the system.
“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. 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.”
The pharmacist outlined the impact that this SCR system has already achieved.
“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.”
And Shergill believes that there are other advantages of SCR as well.
“The second benefit is because we’re solving this in-pharmacy, there’s a reduction in unplanned patient visits and footfall into GP practices.”