Electronic prescribing system for pharmacy pathfinder programme should be ready from spring 2024, says IT provider

Exclusive: The Independent Prescribing Pathfinder programme has been further delayed, with the scheme originally planned to begin in January 2023.
Pharmacist in pharmacy using computer

The electronic prescribing system (EPS) for the first nationally-funded prescribing service for community pharmacies in England should be rolled out by spring 2024, the IT provider has said.

Under the Independent Prescribing Pathfinder programme, 210 community pharmacies across all 42 integrated care boards (ICBs) will trial independent prescribing, ahead of establishing a commissioning framework for the service.

The ‘pathfinder site’ pharmacies taking part in the scheme were originally planned to launch in January 2023, but have faced complications owing to issues with funding and implementation.

A spokesperson for NHS England told The Pharmaceutical Journal in October 2023 that ICBs were expected to finalise plans for the pathfinder sites in their area by November 2023, but said in December 2023 that ICBs were “continuing to progress standing up” the programme.  

A spokesperson for the IT provider Cleo Systems told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “We are working closely with NHS England to plan the pathfinder programme and aim for implementation from spring 2024.”

A spokesperson for NHS England, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that work was still ongoing to implement IT systems to “ensure they work effectively with existing systems”.

“We are continuing to develop the pathfinder programme and are working closely with suppliers and ICBs to test products ahead of them going live,” the spokesperson added.

Community pharmacy also experienced IT delays when there was no access to the GP Connect IT system in time for the launch of the Pharmacy First service in England on 31 January 2024.

Stephen Noble, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Dudley, told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “There have been delays to the Cleo Solo EPS solution, which has been purchased by NHS England to issue electronic prescriptions and must be used by all pathfinder sites.

“This means that roll-out of the programme will now be spring/early summer.”

The intention of the pathfinder programme is to prepare a commissioning framework for independent pharmacy prescribing ahead of 2026, when all newly qualified pharmacists will become independent prescribers at the point of registration.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, February 2024, Vol 312, No 7982;312(7982)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.230373

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