Prescriptions will be available to order digitally from next month

Prescription orders across England will be digitised to make staff and patients’ lives easier, Primary Care Minister Jo Churchill has announced.

The electronic prescription service (EPS) will be rolled out nationally next month, following rigorous testing involving 60 GP practices and hundreds of pharmacies.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said the service will help GPs and pharmacists prescribe and dispense medicines faster and more securely and make it easier for patients to pick up repeat prescriptions.

The spokesman said almost 70% of all prescriptions are already being prescribed and dispensed through EPS and there has been positive feedback from GPs and pharmacies. And once the roll-out of the final stage is completed, nearly all prescriptions will be sent electronically.

A unique prescription barcode will be given to patients, which can be scanned at any pharmacy to retrieve medication details. This information is held on the secure NHS database and will allow a patient’s prescription to be accessed quickly by GPs and pharmacies.

The Department of Health spokesman said the EPS will save the NHS £300m by 2021 by increasing efficiencies, reducing the amount of paper processing required and reducing prescribing errors.

And will increase efficiencies across the NHS by eliminating the need for patients to pick up repeat prescriptions from their GP, allowing prescribers to digitally sign and cancel electronic prescriptions, rather than using a physical signature and reducing the amount of administration needed around prescriptions, and reduce the volume of prescriptions that need to be stored, the spokesman said.

Dr Ian Lowry, director of digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, said the move is a huge milestone that will benefit the NHS as a whole. He 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.

‘This is a huge milestone to reach, and one which benefits patients, GPs, pharmacists and the NHS as a whole.’

However, chief executive of The Patients Association, Rachel Power, has raised concerns over the lack of feedback from patients. She said:

‘The government’s announcement of its new electronic prescription service is alarmingly light on detail about what it will mean for patients. Will patients still be given the name of the medicine they are being prescribed in writing, for instance?

‘The pilot scheme apparently received positive feedback from pharmacies and GPs, but what about patients – were they even asked for their views? We can’t identify any evaluation of the pilot scheme from the patient’s perspective.

‘Until we have more detail, we are concerned that this is another change that has been designed to suit the system and those who work in it, with no consideration for patients, who should be the top priority.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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