Harry McQuillan: Best prescription for healthcare is to let pharmacists see medical history

Harry McQuillan is the chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland.
Harry McQuillan is the chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland.
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When you walk into a pharmacy, you may be surprised to find out that it has no access to your medical or, potentially, your full prescription history.

Community pharmacies can only build up a picture of your medicines history if you go to the same one, which then allows them to record which prescriptions you have brought in and what they have ­dispensed to you.

They can also record any services which they provide and which you may have used, such as the smoking cessation service or a private vaccination clinic. Yet, as it currently stands, this information can only be built up if you use the same pharmacy.

Why is this a problem? Community Pharmacy is becoming empowered to provide a greater number of ­services as an integral part of the primary care network, but it is being asked to do this without access to the information that it needs.­ ­Community pharmacists are the experts in medicines and providing them with access to accurate ­medical information would allow them to make an informed decision when providing advice or dispensing medication.

This is not to say that community pharmacies are behaving in an unsafe way when they dispense an emergency supply to someone who has forgotten their prescription ­medicine while on holiday, for example. However, this often means that the pharmacist needs to call the ­person’s GP or NHS 24 in order to ­confirm the emergency supply – which is hardly a good use of NHS time or resources. Plus, there are many times when a pharmacist may advise someone on an over the counter medicine to help with a minor illness, and they are ­reliant on the medical information that the individual can provide, which does not always give them the full picture.

We think that sharing relevant ­medical information to parts of the primary care team would be supported by the general public. The Health and Sport Committee in the Scottish Parliament published the results of their public consultation on What Should Primary Care Look Like for the Next Generation?’. Importantly, this report shows that 86.2 per cent of respondents were happy for their medical notes to be shared across the primary care team. They would also like to see the consistent use of digital platforms across the NHS which can interact with each other.

Unfortunately, due to the way ­professional recording systems have been separately built, there is l­imited or no compatibility between systems. NHS Scotland has recognised this and is working to introduce an i­ntegrated platform.

As we look more towards digital technology to help people manage their health better, it makes sense that different healthcare professionals can share relevant ­medical ­information to ensure that you always receive advice that is ­tailored to the specifics of your health and your situation. This is something Community Pharmacy Scotland supports and would wish to see introduced ­immediately to increase patient safety and professional integration.

Harry McQuillan is the chief executive of Community ­Pharmacy Scotland.