Patients will be better supported to take their medications safely and effectively by a new standard, which defines the information that needs to be shared by community pharmacies with GP practices.

Community pharmacies are offering a wider range of services than ever before, including vaccinations, medication reviews, support for new medicines as well as support with minor illnesses. If they are recorded in a standardised way, it means that the information can then be shared between different systems more easily. This will help to improve patient safetyby reducing medication errors, ensure that information on pharmacy services is appropriately transmitted to other healthcare providers and reduce administrative work for busy staff. Over time it should help to eliminate the use of paper templates.

The second stage of the two-part standard has been published here by the Professional Record Standards Body. It covers:

  • Medication Reviews (which support patients to take medications in the right way and prevent medicine-related problems)
    • Appliance Use Review (e.g. for a stoma appliance or catheter)
    • New Medicine Services (a service which provides support to people with long-term conditions to help them to take their medications.)
    • Digital Minor Illness Referral Scheme (a service to assess patients with minor illness after a referral from 111 services).
    • Hospital discharge summaries to community pharmacy

Meanwhile, the first stage of the standard, which was published in October last year, details what information should be recorded about vaccinations that have been administered and emergency supplies of medicines by community pharmacies. The two standards have now been combined and will provide high-quality data for service planning, commissioning and public health initiatives.

Stephen Goundrey-Smith, Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s advisor to the PRSB and a clinical lead on the project, said: “We are pleased that the pharmacy information flows standard is now complete, so that community pharmacists can start sharing vital information with GPs. Once it’s put into practice, we expect this to support better, safer and more personalised care, and to demonstrate the valuable services that pharmacy professionals provide.”

Dr Vishen Ramkisson, senior clinical lead for Medicines and Pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: “The first part of this data standard, along with the corresponding FHIR message definitions (which are technical standards to support the digital transfer of information), was published in October last year. Already, pharmacy and GP system suppliers are working hard to develop their systems to send and receive these standardised messages.

We are looking forward to starting to see this initial part of the standard used in practice ahead of winter 2019/20. We hope that GP and pharmacy IT suppliers will continue to develop against the next set of FHIR message definitions once they are available.”

Next steps  

  • NHS Digital last year used the first part of the standard to develop message definitions using Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) – a standard for the digital exchange of healthcare information.
  • These definitions, relating to vaccine administration and emergency supply of medication, are now being used by GP and pharmacy system suppliers to develop their systems. NHS Digital is supporting these suppliers to implement the capability.
  • NHS Digital will now develop the second stage of the standard into FHIR message definitions to allow IT system suppliers to include the additional pharmacy services.