Electronic prescriptions will be introduced in all urgent care settings in England, including NHS 111 and other out-of-hours services, NHS Digital has announced.
The national roll out of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) — which allows prescriptions to be sent directly to a pharmacy electronically instead of relying on paper — follows the success of pilots in London and the East Midlands.
Vishen Ramkisson, a GP and senior clinical lead at NHS Digital, said the decision was a “significant step” in extending the benefits of digital prescribing.
“Faster processing of prescriptions from NHS 111 and out-of-hours will enable those services to treat more urgent cases or spend more time treating each patient,” he said.
“A patient who requires nothing more than a short-term supply of an existing medication will no longer need a face-to-face consultation with a clinician.”
Zafar Khan, a superintendent pharmacist and director at the London-based 24-hour pharmacy, Zafash Limited, which was involved in the NHS Digital urgent care pilot, said:
“Doctors … have been able to see that we are open and where we are located, and then give patients the option to come to us to ensure they get the medication they need as soon as possible.
“By avoiding common delays due to faxing and emailing prescriptions, or patients having to drop off their paper prescriptions in person, dispensed medication has been ready for collection when patients arrive, saving them waiting time and inconvenience,” he added.
Initially the EPS will only be available where services run the Advanced Adastra prescribing system, but NHS Digital confirmed the majority of NHS 111 centres and other out-of-hour services already have the necessary software in place.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has produced a briefing paper on EPS use in urgent care settings for community pharmacists about the roll out.