PHARMACISTS have warned that a lack of direct access to patient's electronic medical records is an "urgent patient safety concern", as the role of technology in NHS Scotland comes under scrutiny.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland called for the creation of a single electronic patient health record which could be access by all health and social care professionals, amid a push to keep patients out of hospitals and away from unnecessary GP visits.

In a submission to Holyrood's Health and Sport Committee, the RPS said its members needed to have the same access to records as a GP or hospital consultant in order to provide safe treatment to people in the community.

It said: "Lack of read and write access to a patient’s electronic health record by community pharmacists is now an urgent patient safety concern.

"Access to the Emergency Care Summary was promised for community pharmacists by 2014 and this has not yet been actioned. This presently results in unnecessary calls to NHS 24 by health professionals in order to gain access to basic medication history and essential allergy details."

The paper added: "Lack of community pharmacy access to the ECS is a clear and present safety concern which requires to be addressed as a matter of urgency. In order to ensure patient safety and continuity of care this should be one single patient health record where all essential information is stored, supported by a stable infrastructure allowing appropriate access across all relevant health and social care professionals with patient or designated carer’s consent."

It is unclear exactly what is behind the delay, but it is thought that

The Scottish Government wants community pharmacist to have a more hands-on role in patient care, such as reviewing residents' medication in care homes and offering more health services on the high streets.

In most cases, pharmacists would not require access to medical records. However, pharmacists complain that current access arrangements are laborious because they require pharmacists to go through NHS24 to gain access to the information in the first place, and should any updates need to be made to a patient's medical record following consultation pharmacists must write by letter to GPs with the details as they cannot edit the record personally.

The Health and Sport Committee will hear evidence on Tuesday in relation to its inquiry into Technology and Innovation in the NHS.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine added that shared patient data systems across primary services, social care services and emergency departments would mean "patient care and outcomes are improved".

Meanwhile, Professor Brian McKinstry, professor of primary care e-health at Usher Institute and Professor Moira White, head of Edinburgh Medical School, said in a joint submission that the "number one complaint" among GPs in relation to telehealth is the poor functionality of IT systems. They said: "The target of a single sign on to computers by 2017 has not been achieved in primary care with most general practitioners having to sign in to five separate programs before they can start consulting. Systems have become slower and increasingly difficult to use. Operating systems (Windows XP remains standard) are no longer supported and simple tasks such as internet searches have become increasingly difficult."

They added that there was also a lack of progress in enabling patients to perform simple tasks over the internet.

They said: "Still very few appointments can book appointments online, only some practices offer repeat prescribing requests online and these are on standalone software packages with no link to the electronic medical record."

They added that attempts to trial video consulting with care homes "have been severely hampered by equipment procurement regulations", as well as poor bandwith in some areas.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the importance of appropriate access to patient information for clinical decision making, including by community pharmacists.

“Community pharmacists across Scotland currently have access to patient records through a dedicated phone line to NHS24.

“We have been working closely with the BMA and the Information Commissioner’s Office on how information held in GP records can be shared safely and appropriately with other health professionals working in the NHS. 

"As a result of this work, the new GP contract will facilitate this safe and appropriate sharing of information and help improve patient care.”