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What's so great about the new National Care Records Service?

Locum pharmacist Faraaz Hussain describes his experience of using the new National Care Records Service.

I spend part of my week in a hospital setting and part as a locum in community pharmacies. The Summary Care Record application (SCRa) has always been an indispensable tool in this work, allowing quick and secure access to clinical information, but it can be tricky to access when moving between sites for locum clinicians like me.

In December 2022, I was approached by the Summary Care Record application team at NHS England to test out the National Care Records Services (NCRS), the successor to the SCRa. This is some of what I have found out.

A pharmacist using a tablet device in front of a shelf of medicines.

The benefits:

1. Easy to access

As a pharmacist who already had access to SCRa, it was easy for me to switch over to using NCRS. It was as simple as using the new link. My existing smartcard access rights were pulled through.

The SCRa can only be accessed by using your smartcard to sign into a desktop computer connected to the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).

The NCRS, on the other hand, is available using mobile or desktop devices. The device can be connected to the internet using WiFi, mobile data or the HSCN. If you have NHS Credential Management installed, there are alternatives to the smartcard for logging in, including multifactor authentication.

On my travels, I noticed some pharmacies still didn’t have NHS credential manager installed but a quick call to the organisation’s ICT team solved this in most cases. You can check your smartcard setup if you need help with this.

2. No more error messages

“Unsupported browsers, Java script error”

These sorts of messages have been part of my experience with SCRa.

I haven’t seen these error messages since I switched over to using the NCRS. It’s an internet-facing service, which allows me to use my access rights and credentials at any location where a modern browser is available. (Yes, that even means Google Chrome!)

3. Better user interface

I found the NCRS very simple and easy to use, I didn’t need any training and could just use it straight off the bat. It’s a modern NHS application on a web browser.

As the national services provided on NCRS are pretty much the same as SCRa, it does feel like a glossier, more up-to-date SCRa.

4. New features

NCRS also comes with a few new features. For example, some patient records would flag up showing they had reasonable adjustments, which is useful to know when considering how to interact with the patient to provide the best possible care for them.

Another feature that drew my attention was the new search box that allows you to search for key words and highlights them within the record. This helps to quickly search the patient record for a specific medicine, allergy or vaccine.

What it doesn't do

Typically, locum pharmacists are required to get their credentials and smartcard access updated by a registration authority for each site they work at before they can access clinical information about a patient.

As a locum I tend to travel to different areas, working for both independent and national pharmacy chains and at times this means starting in a new location at very short notice. Getting my smartcard access updated from a registration authority when you only know the night before where you’ll be working the next day can be challenging.

The NCRS doesn’t provide a solution to this, but requesting ‘5F or FFFFF’ authentication to be added to your Care Identity profile by a registration authority does.

My verdict

Overall, I really like using the new NCRS product.

As the number of community pharmacy clinical services increases, there is a growing need for pharmacists to have timely access to patient information, in and out of normal working hours.

NCRS is nationally available, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I’ve found this to be particularly useful when building a clinical picture for patients, using it for the NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS) and, more recently, working in a pharmacy providing the COVID-19 medicines supply service.

The NCRS product is a much-improved version of SCRa and opens up a range of new benefits. It’s more accessible and easier to use. I’d encourage every clinician to start switching over to use it as soon as they can.

Related subjects

Rupesh Thakkar, a chief pharmacist for a primary care network in Solihull who also supports the Implementation Team in NHS England's Transformation Directorate, describes how the repeat prescriptions feature on the NHS App helped to ease the pressure on primary care services in his area.   


Last edited: 28 June 2023 5:04 pm