Tesco, Boots and other companies that run pharmacies are to be given access to people’s medical records, under plans drawn up by NHS England.
The scheme is due to begin this autumn and is designed to reduce the pressure on GPs, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Campaign group medConfidential warned that the temptation for commercial firms to use the information to make money would prove “irresistible” and said the move was “corroding trust in the NHS”.
However 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 Council and must comply with the Data Protection Act.”
The scheme, which was piloted in 140 pharmacies, allows chemists to see “summary care records”, which list medications previously taken by a patient, but only if the person concerned gives their consent.
A report on the pilot by the Health and Social Care Information Centre found this was “extremely beneficial”.
However it added: “The principles around asking patients for permission to view their summary care record and its practical application for some prevalent patient groups in the pharmacy setting caused confusion and uncertainty.”
Only 15 patients involved in the pilot filled in a questionnaire about the scheme, a number so low that their responses were not taken into account in the report.
Two of the firms involved stressed they were not permitted to misuse patient data.
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."
However Phil Booth, of medConfidential, told the Telegraph: “This approach to medical confidentiality is corroding trust in the NHS.
“These are commercial organisations, large chains, who are looking for opportunities to make money.
“If you give them access to all this medical information it is irresistible to them to use it, it doesn’t matter if you try to ban it.”Reuse content