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Default electronic prescriptions could save NHS £300m by 2021, says NHS Digital

By Costanza Pearce

21 Oct 2019

The national roll-out of Phase 4 of the electronic prescription service (EPS) could save the NHS £300m over the next three years, NHS Digital has said.

Following a successful pilot across more than 3,100 community pharmacies in England since last November, the final phase of the EPS will be rolled out across the country from 18 November, NHS Digital announced on Saturday (19 October).

Phase 4 will make digital prescription processing the default and will save ‘time and money’ by reducing the amount of paper processed by pharmacists, GPs and the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), NHS Digital said.

Patients without a regular ‘nominated’ pharmacy will receive a paper token with a barcode that community pharmacy staff will scan to download the electronic prescription from the secure NHS database, the NHS Spine.

Electronic prescriptions will continue unchanged for the 32 million patients who have chosen a nominated pharmacy.

The pilot showed that Phase 4 could increase the proportion of prescriptions sent electronically from around 70% to above 95%, according to NHS Digital.

In March, NHS Digital announced that the extension of the EPS to prescriptions of almost all Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs would ‘reduce the administrative burden’ on pharmacies.


‘A huge milestone’


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 that benefits patients, GPs, pharmacists and the NHS as a whole.’

Chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge added that the ‘major development’ will make prescription services ‘more convenient for patients in the digital age’.

The roll-out will begin with GP practices using TPP SystmOne, with other system suppliers to follow in 2020.

NHS Digital and the NHSBSA will support clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to manage implementation in their own areas, NHS Digital said.

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