High street pharmacies Tesco, Superdrug, Boots and Lloyds will be given access to patients’ medical records in a bid to ease pressure on family doctors.

Tesco, Superdrug, Boots and Lloyds will be given access to NHS medical records in a bid to improve the care given to patients in high street pharmacies.

  • High street pharmacies to get access to patients’ medical records
  • NHS England says it will improve care given to patients and ease pressure on GPs
  • Information will “never be available” for non-medical purposes, such as marketing

Health chiefs said the nationwide scheme, which is poised to start this autumn, will improve the care that high street pharmacists can give to patients.

The move comes after officials gave the green light to a national roll-out of the scheme following a pilot of 140 pharmacies in Somerset, Northampton, North Derbyshire, Sheffield and West Yorkshire, where they saw “significant benefits.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society also received backing from numerous groups including the Patients Association, Parkinsons UK, Age UK, National Voices, Diabetes UK and Asthma UK to press ahead with plans, while local patient groups who were consulted during the project were also supportive.

Under the proposals, data from Summary Care Records (SCRs), which set out details of previously prescribed medications taken on all NHS patients, will be sent to all pharmacies, but pharmacists would have to ask for a patient’s permission to view their record. An audit by health officials showed 92% of pharmacists thought access to the records would improve their service to patients.

Patients can opt out of having an SCR held on them, but those who do have one created will continue to be asked for their consent to view their records by healthcare professionals, for the purpose of clinical care only, NHS England insisted.

That came after some campaigners suggested that the information could be used by high street chains to market their own products, but NHS England said such sensitive data on patients “will never be available to supermarkets for other purposes, such as marketing.”

It added that “if a pharmacy professional shared confidential patient information for any purpose other than direct care, they can be held liable in law”, which could lead to their license to practice being withdrawn.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “Pharmacies and pharmacists can only use information for the offering of clinical service to patients. They are bound by the same terms of service and regulations as with their access to any other information. Pharmacists are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Society and must comply with the Data Protection Act.”

A Tesco spokesman said: “Our pharmacies are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Society and comply with the Data Protection Act. We would never use summary care records or prescription data to market to customers.”

A Superdrug spokesman said: “At Superdrug, patient care is our highest priority. All team members who work in our pharmacies have completed enhanced data protection training to ensure sensitive personal data is handled appropriately.

“We do not subject patients to sales pressure based on prescription records and this will not change when the summary care record is rolled out.”