Digital system to check free prescription eligibility to be piloted in summer 2018

NHS Digital director of digital medicines says plans for a digital system which can check eligibity for free prescriptions will be piloted in summer 2018.

UK pharmacist working with nurse

Pharmacists will be able to check if a patient is eligible for free prescriptions under plans for a new electronic system to be piloted in the summer, it has been revealed.

NHS Digital is beginning the pilot in August 2018 to “take the burden of knowing whether a patient is exempt or not” from pharmacists, its director of digital medicines, Richard Ashcroft, said during a presentation at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress held in London on 27 April 2018.

Under the current system, pharmacy staff must ask patients to provide evidence that they are exempt from prescription charges.

Ashcroft also confirmed that NHS Digital aims to have the capability for information from pharmacists being digitally transferred to other healthcare providers “by Christmas”. The Pharmaceutical Journal understands that top priority for this is the transfer of flu vaccination data to GP practices, with the aim of having this in place by the start of the flu vaccination season, which begins in September.

Ashcroft said: “We are getting to a point where we can digitise exemption checking. A proof of concept in June and a first pilot in August this year is our current aim — we are confident about that.

“We will start to board exemption information into the pharmacy flow, so the … burden of knowing whether a patient is exempt or not starts to disappear. There is a bit of learning to do to see if we have that right, but the significant benefits will flow as a result if we do.”

Ashcroft said the final aim was for a full virtual healthcare record for patients that all healthcare professionals treating a patient could access.

“That is the ambition, but we are a few years off,” he said.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, April 2018;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204773