'More than half' of GP practices now have the ability to automatically issue HRT prescriptions separately so they can be used with the HRT pre-payment certificate – which were introduced almost a year ago.

NHS England confirmed remaining practices would see the updates come 'over the coming months'.

The HRT PPC was introduced nearly a year ago on 1 April 2023, requiring prescriptions for HRT items listed as being covered by the PPC to be issued separately to other items.

In its primary care bulletin sent on 14 March, NHSE said: 'More than half of GP surgeries now have a digital solution available, which will automatically issue HRT items on separate prescriptions (one for each item) at the point of prescribing.'

It added: 'This is an important step in ensuring there isn’t additional burden for practices and pharmacy teams.'

And it said that it was 'continuing to work together' with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and suppliers to implement changes across all GP IT systems 'over the coming months'.

But while Community Pharmacy England welcomed ‘this important step in reducing burden placed on pharmacy teams processing mixed prescriptions’, it said that ‘until the full roll-out of auto-separation is achieved, prescribers will still be required to manually issue all HRT items as single-item prescriptions’, and reiterated options available to pharmacies still receiving mixed prescriptions.

When the PPC was introduced, prescribers were instructed to issue separate prescriptions manually in order to avoid extra work and additional costs for community pharmacies having to deal with mixed prescriptions.

At the time, Community Pharmacy England chief executive Janet Morrison said that community pharmacies could not be expected to ‘keep picking up the pieces when DHSC and the NHS launch policies without having the infrastructure in place to effectively implement them’, whilst also being subject to funding cuts.

It comes as the promised 'interoperable' IT system to allow Pharmacy First consultations to be easily added to GP records was not ready for the service launch on 31 January and could still be weeks away, according to NHSE chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb.

Community pharmacies in England have also battled ‘a combination of IT hurdles’ this month with an ‘unacceptable’ impact on pharmacy teams’ workload and stress, according to CPE.