Patient opinion is divided over whether pharmacists should have access to electronic records, with more than a quarter opposing such a move.

A survey by the Patients Association found that more than 50% of patients are willing for their electronic records to be seen by pharmacists, but that just over 25% are strongly opposed to the idea.

Access to medical records has been promoted by pharmacy bodies. And earlier this year, the Department of Health said it had convened a group to look at wider access to the NHS Care Records Service, including access for pharmacists.

The Patients Association sent its survey to more than 2,500 members and received responses from 498.

It also asked patients for their views on confidentiality in pharmacies and found that fewer than 30% of respondents felt their pharmacist paid particular attention to the privacy and confidentiality of customers at all time. Only 13.7% of respondents were happy there was enough space in their pharmacy to provide privacy and confidentiality.

The Patients Association said many patients had sound reasons for opposing electronic access to medical records in community pharmacies.

Comments attached to the survey suggest these centre around concerns about extending access beyond doctors or medical staff and perceptions of the cost and effectiveness of what one respondent called "this wretched computer system."

It added: “For the scheme to be successful there will need to be greater reassurance about confidentiality and accuracy, as well as a much greater level of safekeeping than exists in all respects currently.”

However, the Association said that when patients agree, GPs should share information with pharmacists for the benefit of patients.

It also recommended that pharmacies should establish a confidentiality charter covering consultation rooms, over the counter services and inter-staff discussion of patients.