The Pharmacist's GP blogger has a bone to pick with the electronic prescribing system (EPS)

I’m very partial to the phrase, ‘work in progress’: it’s a handy get-out clause for any problem that I wasn’t alert enough to foresee.

Take the electronic prescribing system (EPS), for example. That, in my view, is definitely a work in progress. We all know what EPS stands for. What is less clear is whether it can also stand for ‘emergency prescribing system’.

I raise this because of a coincidence of two events. One: I’d been phone triaging an epidemic of coughs and colds, COPD exacerbations, UTIs, etc etc, and scatter-gunning EPS scripts like a GP possessed, by which I mean, of course, that I had been judiciously prescribing antibiotics only when clinically appropriate and in strict accordance with latest guidelines. And two: I read that a coroner was calling for EPS systems to be updated to communicate clinical urgency on account of a death in which there was a delay in providing a patient with urgent antibiotics.

Ah. Good point. Back in the day, the patient or their representative would collect the script from reception and take it to the pharmacy, thereby being on the spot for collection, exploration, education, negotiation and so on. Now it’s not so simple. When I fire off my EPS script and the patient asks me when it will be ready, I have to say I have no idea. True, for something really urgent then in a rare display of interprofessional co-ordination and communication, I could contact the pharmacist.

But for all the rest, I’m just shooting scripts into the ether. I don’t know how often you look at EPS, your turnaround time and whether you deliver, and even if I did, I can’t know whether your standards/services will apply to the various other pharmacies we EPS to. I don’t even know if I can send you an urgent message with the EPS script, and, if I could, whether you’d see it.

What I do know is, once I press ‘send’, it’s down to the patient and pharmacist. And without an actual reality patient wielding an actual reality prescription, things can get a little bit too vague and virtual for my liking. If you don’t believe me, ask the coroner. Best to phone, though.