Use of the NHS Care Records Service by community pharmacists will be an essential part of the reform agenda for pharmacy services, health minister Phil Hope has said.

The minister told the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s annual dinner that community pharmacy and the NHS were in a great position to move forward on a number of IT fronts.

He said: “We can build on the infrastructure provided by the Electronic Prescription Service, but we can also go much further, using things like NHSmail and the Care Record Service to push forward integration and information capture necessary to deliver better services to patients.”

Hope said the Department of Health would be working with NHS Connecting for Health on a number of commitments in the pharmacy white paper.

The white paper, published last April, outlined plans to investigate how community pharmacy access to the NCRS could be achieved as part of its aim to extend pharmacists’ role in the NHS.

Last month, it was revealed that three community pharmacies in Bradford are expected to be given access to the Summary Care Record over the next few months in a pilot programme to evaluate the potential benefits of such an approach.

The white paper also pledged that the government would look at how community pharmacists could access other parts of the National Programme for IT in the NHS, such as Choose and Book, and how EPS could be developed to enable pharmacists to use it for services such as minor ailment schemes.

Hope told the PSNC conference that the DH would be working with CfH to scope how to capture and share information from pharmacists as part of the promotion of healthy lifestyles. He said they would also look at how IT could be used to get evaluation data from pharmacists about patients’ health.

Hope pledged that, while pushing ahead, the government would also not compromise on patients’ confidentiality. “Let’s move forward with real confidence and purpose but also show an appropriate degree of deliberation too.”

The conference also heard a call from Christopher Hodges, PSNC chair, for faster progress to be made on community pharmacist access to NHSmail.

Hodges told the conference that “one big step” towards closer working with GPs would be to deliver secure email communication with GPs for pharmacists carrying out medicine use reviews or vascular risk assessments.

He added: “GP systems are paperless so paper based communication from community pharmacists’ strains relationships unnecessarily. The problem has been around too long. It’s time it was fixed.”

Access by pharmacists to NHSmail is currently being piloted in nine PCTs across England.

They are looking at a number of uses, including transmission of clinical information such as medicines use review forms, submission of reimbursement claims for enhanced services to PCTs and also use of NHSmail’s free SMS messaging service to send prescription reminders to patients.

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