The first electronic prescription service (EPS) in Wales has launched today, allowing patients and healthcare professionals to benefit from ‘easier, safer and more efficient’ prescribing and dispensing, the Welsh Government has said.

Instead of printing, signing and giving a patient a paper form to take to a pharmacy, GPs will be able to send the prescription electronically to the patient’s chosen pharmacy.

The new system will also allow community pharmacies to be reimbursed digitally.

A ‘live testing’ service launched today in Rhyl, north-east Wales, and will be rolled out across the country from January 2024.

The move comes as part of a wider project to transform prescribing to enable all hospitals, general practices and community pharmacies to use electronic systems in the country.

The first community pharmacy to receive an electronic prescription in Wales today was Wellington Road Pharmacy in Rhyl, working alongside the Lakeside Medical Centre.

Visiting the sites, the minister for health and social services Eluned Morgan, said: ‘We are at the start of an exciting digital transformation that will completely change the way prescriptions are managed in primary care, streamlining a process that has not altered significantly in decades.

‘Electronic prescriptions will make a huge difference to the NHS and patients and is a major milestone in our journey towards digitising every prescription in every healthcare setting across Wales.’

And she thanked the staff at the GP practice and pharmacy for their support in adopting the EPS technology, adding: ‘I hope we can explore how other primary care settings can use digital prescribing.’

Andrew Evans, chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, said that digital innovation was ‘key’ to improving the prescription service for patients, pharmacists and GPs.

He added: ‘This is transformational change that will have a significant impact on the way we work and introduce a real change to current processes.’

And he emphasised the importance of the current live stage of testing, stressing: ‘It is critical these changes are introduced safely.’

Professor Hamish Laing, senior responsible owner for the Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio, said that today’s launch was ‘a key milestone on our journey to digitalise prescriptions and medicines management in Wales’.

‘We have seen a real desire and commitment from GPs and community pharmacists to adopt this and from the software companies involved to make the necessary changes to their systems as soon as possible,’ he added.

He added that support from colleagues in NHS England and NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership had also been important, ‘incorporating digital reimbursement to pharmacies and putting security measures in place’.

‘Our collaborative approach, placing people at the centre and working closely with clinicians, patients and industry suppliers ensures we are delivering a service that meets the needs of all who use it,’ he added.

A fund was set up in April to provide grants to suppliers developing systems for EPS delivery in Wales.