Ministers have agreed to remove the requirement for patients in England to sign paper NHS prescription forms or EPS tokens for another three months, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.

The temporary suspension was first introduced in November and was due to expire yesterday (31 March) but has now been extended to 30 June.

It was initially put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to avoid any potential cross-contamination by minimising the handling of any paperwork, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) explained in an update earlier this week (29 March).

The suspension will only be removed once the Government has decided it is safe for patients to resume signing of forms.

Contractors have been asked to mark the relevant exempt or paid category on the FP10 form or EPS token on behalf of eligible patients.

Pharmacy teams should also continue to ensure that patients pay any relevant prescription fee and evidence of their entitlement provisions apply in the usual way.

PSNC said: ‘During this period, NHSBSA will not switch any unsigned paper prescription forms between exempt and chargeable groups, but instead, will process prescriptions according to the group in which they are submitted in.

‘To avoid any inappropriate charge deductions, pharmacy staff should ensure that FP10 paper prescriptions forms are sorted into their correct charge groups (exempt, paid or paid at old charge rate) for the end of the month submission process.’

In March, research suggested that the virus could survive on paper, which prompted some pharmacists to raise safety concerns over the need to handle paper prescriptions daily – fearing that direct contact may increase their risk of contracting Covid-19.