Prescription processing is to become digital by default as the final phase of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) is rolled out across the country.
The latest development to EPS – Phase Four – allows prescriptions for all patients to be sent using the more efficient system, not only for those who had chosen a regular ‘nominated’ dispenser.
EPS reduces the amount of paper processing required by GPs, pharmacists and the NHS Business Services Authority.
GP practices across England took part in a successful pilot, which saw 329,000 prescriptions dispensed by more than 3,100 community pharmacies.
Roll-out of EPS Phase Four starts from 18 November, beginning with GP practices using the TPP SystmOne system. Implementation will continue into next year with other system suppliers, while Clinical Commissioning Groups will manage the roll-out in their own areas with support from NHS Digital and the NHSBSA.
Martin Kelsall, director of primary care services at the NHSBSA, said: “EPS has the potential to deliver significant benefits to patients while saving millions of pounds that could be re-invested in patient care. This is especially true for patients who get regular or repeat prescriptions, using Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) – a process that allows regular medicines to be prescribed for suitable patients in batches of up to a year.
“Working collaboratively with NHS Digital, our EPS Support team has been working with primary care staff to maximise EPS use.
“As Phase Four progresses, we’ll continue to work with prescribers and dispensers to support their use of EPS and eRD and promote best practice.”
Patients will see little or no change to the process of being prescribed medicines by their GP, or how they request and collect them from their community pharmacy. Those without a nominated pharmacy still receive a paper copy of their prescription listing what has been prescribed, but this will also contain a barcode. Pharmacy staff will then scan the barcode to download their electronic prescription from the secure NHS database – the NHS Spine.
The 32 million patients who already have a nominated pharmacy will still have their prescriptions sent electronically without needing a paper copy. Prescribers and dispensers will only have to use one main process, and if a patient loses their paper copy it can be reprinted.
Dr Ian Lowry, director of digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: “Every prescription that is sent electronically saves money for the NHS by increasing efficiency. The system is also safer and more secure, as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online.
“Building upon the success of the existing service, this is a huge milestone to reach, and one which benefits patients, GPs, pharmacists and the NHS as a whole.”