Access to the NHS Summary Care Record is essential, a community pharmacist has said, as NHS England considers launching a pilot scheme.

Sultan Dajani, who sits on the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said it is “absolutely bizarre” that pharmacists do not already have access to the electronic record, which contains basic clinical information such as a patient’s medicines and allergies.

“We basically work in an information vacuum. As a community pharmacist, and member of the third largest health profession, I find it absolutely bizarre that we don’t already have some form of access, given the shared liability that exists on prescriptions already,” he said at a conference earlier this month.

The SCR was one of the key projects of the National Programme for IT.

It was supposed to create the 'national' element of an integrated care records service that was otherwise supposed to be delivered by the roll-out of local, detailed care record systems at trusts.

However, it was dogged by rows about security and about whether patients should opt-in to or opt-out of the first, national, database of electronic records.

In 2008, the Department of Health first began investigating the possibility of giving community pharmacists access to the SCR. It later launched a pilot programme.

However, while the pilot in NHS Bradford and Airedale was well received, the trial was cancelled in 2011 after two reviews of the SCR were published and the government announced that the by-now much delayed project would go-ahead with a focus on out-of-hours care.

NHS England announced last year that it would expand the SCR, adding patients’ end-of-life care information, immunisations, and significant past problems and procedures.

However, a spokesperson told EHI that giving pharmacists access is not an immediate priority.

“NHS England is currently investigating the potential to deliver community pharmacies with read access to summary care record,” said the spokesperson.

“We are considering how we could pilot this, and will use these findings, and a wider review of associated considerations, to inform what we do in the future."

Dajani said that as interoperability between health and social care progresses, access to the SCR will become even more vital.

“It’s essential, not only for the continuity of care but to make those informed clinical decisions at a time when the patient is vulnerable. We need to improve patient safety, minimise errors, allow for better outcomes and adherence,” he said.

“We’re not there just to dispense and distribute medicine, we also do prescribing, vaccinations, councelling, education, medicines optimisation. But as pharmacy practice becomes more service orientated we have to record this data and make sure it’s accessible.

He added: “The roll out needs to happen as soon as possible.”