The national roll-out of Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in urgent care settings will reduce administration times for community pharmacists, the The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has predicted.

Under the national roll-out – announced by NHS Digital on 29 March – community pharmacies will receive electronic prescriptions from providers including NHS 111, out-of-hours GPs, Clinical Assessments Services (CAS), walk-in centres, minor injuries units and urgent care centres.

PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told the Pharmacist today (5 April) that EPS will 'reduce the administrative burden for pharmacy teams, as it should remove the risk of paper scripts not arriving from the urgent care prescribers in a timely manner’.

The national rollout of EPS in urgent care settings follows successful pilots in London and the East Midlands that started in December.

The service will initially be available to integrated urgent care providers using the clinical software system Adastra. NHS Digital is working with other suppliers to develop this functionality in their system.

The negotiator told the Pharmacist that it understood the initiative would begin ‘very shortly’.

‘Quicker access to medicines’

Mr Buxton added: ‘The use of EPS, instead of phoned through or faxed prescriptions, will provide many patients with quicker access to their medicines.’

‘When a local urgent care provider starts to use EPS, we’re advising pharmacy teams that are open during the out-of-hours period, to review their use of EPS.’

Innovating to tackle pressures

NHS Digital senior clinical lead Dr Vishen Ramkisson argued that ‘reducing winter pressures on the NHS has become a catalyst for change, resulting in new levels of digital innovation, which will have profound benefit to patients, care providers and local pharmacies’.

She continued: ‘This is a significant step in extending the benefits of digital prescribing, providing a faster, better and more efficient system for patients, doctors and pharmacists.

‘Faster processing of prescriptions from NHS 111 and out-of-hours will enable those services to treat more urgent cases or spend more time treating each patient.’

PSNC recommended that contractors consider:

  • Checking staffing rotas to make sure at least one Smartcard-holding pharmacy team member is always available during opening hours;
  • Whether further staff require an EPS Smartcard; and
  • Adjusting when and how regularly electronic prescriptions are downloaded during the out of hours period, where pharmacies are open during this period.