Pharmacies will have a ‘reduced administrative burden’ now that controlled drugs can be dispensed via the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), NHS Digital announced yesterday (28 February).

Following successful trials across 64 GP practices in England since October last year, practices will be able to prescribe almost all Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs via EPS.

A paper prescription will still be needed for oral liquid methadone due to its packaged dose endorsement, NHS Digital said.


‘More efficient services’


NHS Digital said one of the benefits will be a ‘reduced administrative burden on both GP practices and pharmacy staff’ as patients will no longer have split prescriptions.

It added: ‘Electronic records inform pharmacists, supporting them to safely and effectively dispense the right drugs for patients.’

Sending prescriptions electronically to nominated pharmacies is also more secure and will increase patient safety, according to NHS Digital.

Dr Vishen Ramkisson, senior clinical lead for digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: ‘This will make a particular difference to those who need controlled drugs the most, such as those nearing end-of-life who use this medication to manage pain and control unpleasant symptoms.

‘More efficient processes and fewer visits to drop-off paper prescriptions will help make sure these patients can be more comfortable. It will mean a better experience for patients and more efficient services for dispensers and prescribers.’

He added that he was ‘confident’ about rolling out the process nationally after the pilot’s ‘excellent results’.


A welcome improvement’


Martin Bennett, superintendent pharmacist at Sheffield-based Associated Chemists (Wicker) Ltd, said: ‘Being able to receive prescriptions for controlled drugs electronically is a welcome improvement to EPS.

‘It will speed up the process, reduce the potential of errors when prescriptions are hand written and make the dispensing of controlled drugs safer and more secure.’

NHS Digital advised pharmacists and GPs to inform affected patients they will no longer receive separate paper prescriptions and to give those not previously signed up the opportunity to opt in to EPS.

Pharmacists can find the dates GP practices in their area will be added to the scheme on NHS Digital’s website.