NHS Digital digitising community pharmacy and medicines programme head Candice Moore showed how technology improvements could change pharmacists’ lives for the better at the Pharmacy Show this weekend (7-8 October).

Here’s the pick of what The Pharmacist learned from her.


  1. Introducing electronic tokens for patients


Speaking on the second day of the conference on Sunday (8 October), Ms Moore said NHS Digital is hoping that in the future, ‘we will be able to introduce electronic tokens’ to accompany electronic prescriptions.

According to her, this could be done through ‘some sort of barcode’ on patients’ smartphones that would enable them to retrieve their prescribed item in any pharmacy in England.

But Ms Moore highlighted that even if electronic tokens for patients were to be introduced now, pharmacies would still have to use paper tokens for pick lists and checking, an issue she said NHS Digital will be looking into.

A similar problem can be found with exemptions where patients have to sign a paper given by the pharmacy. Ms Moore said that NHS Digital is currently working with the NHS Business Service Authority (NHSBSA) and the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) to see whether exemptions could be digitised to be directly transferred to the pharmacy system.

‘We’re expecting regulation changes to take place in November. If the exemption status for a patient is confirmed electronically, there’s no need to catch other signatures. That will remove paper and should streamline things a little bit,’ Ms Moore added.


  1. Empowering pharmacists and patients


Ms Moore argued that pharmacists would like to be able to ‘move prescriptions between dispensers’, especially when an item is out of stock, to avoid returning the prescription and wasting time.

She also said that pharmacists want greater visibility. Although some GP surgeries share common systems with their local pharmacies, allowing both to fully access patient records, some pharmacists lack access to vital patient information, such as why a certain medicine is being prescribed or if a patient has an allergy. More information on the scripts could ‘close that loop,’ Ms Moore said.

Based on feedback, Ms Moore said that NHS Digital wants to give patients more control. She added: ‘If a patient wants to change their nomination, they have to call their GP practice or pop into the pharmacy. Why couldn’t they do that online?

‘Patients would like more visibility. We can track most things nowadays – you can even check where your pizza is, apparently. So why can’t you track your prescription?’


  1. EPS phase 4 starting in November


NHS Digital will pilot electronic prescription service (EPS) phase 4 in mid-November, Ms Moore revealed.

Since the first EPS prescription was sent in 2009, more than two billion prescription items have been dispensed, with over 58 million items dispensed in September alone, an average of around two million items a day.

Ms Moore argued that phase 4 is the next ‘biggest’ step of EPS. ‘We’re waiting for regulation and legislation to be updated, which will allow all prescriptions to be sent by EPS,’ she said.

Under the current system, a prescription can only be sent electronically where a patient has nominated a pharmacy. Under EPS phase 4, the volume of electronic prescriptions will increase, saving the NHS time and money.

She continued: ‘For every 1% of EPS increased usage, the NHSBSA saves £330,000.

‘The existing EPS is working well but the technology we’re using is old. We need to harness some of the new technologies and see how we can improve EPS and fix some of the issues.

‘We’re expecting that once we get schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs (CDs) and EPS 4 enabled, around 95% of prescriptions can be send via EPS.’