Wales should see a “technical proof of concept” for an electronic prescription service (EPS) by spring 2023, the Welsh government has said, with the service expected to be rolled to GP surgeries and pharmacies later in the year.
The announcement came in a statement from Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services, published on 5 January 2023, which revealed that NHS Wales’ Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio team had “progressed plans” for the EPS, based on the system developed by NHS England.
“It is expected the first prescriptions will be sent electronically from GP practices to dispensing pharmacies in summer or early autumn 2023,” the statement said.
In September 2021, the Welsh government said it aimed to deliver full electronic prescribing within three to five years.
The statement added: “We are also working with community pharmacy IT system providers to encourage them to minimise the use of paper, optimise processes and enhance the service provided to the public, including tracking prescription requests, so people know when their prescription has been received by the pharmacy and when it is ready for collection.”
The update also said that under the ‘all-Wales electronic prescribing and medicines administration’ system, hospitals would be able to select their choice of system, allowing them to digitise prescribing and administration of ward and outpatient medicines. The first health board is expected to deploy this by autumn 2023.
A spokesperson for the Welsh government said that, currently, it was “too early to confirm which health board would be first to award a contract under the framework”.
“All health boards are looking to award a contract under the framework as soon as possible,” they added.
Elen Jones, director for Wales at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “We are excited to see that the implementation of the electronic prescribing service is moving ever closer and look forward to the benefits that this will bring to our hard working pharmacy teams and patients alike.
“Digital innovation and technology will be key to enhancing the dispensing and supply of medicines to patients, with opportunities and the potential to create more time for over stretched pharmacists and their teams to spend with patients.
“The long-term vision for pharmacy in Wales, ‘Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales‘, has ‘harnessing innovation and technology’ as one of its key themes; implementing electronic prescribing across all settings is a key goal and we are pleased to see these workstreams align.”
Judy Thomas, director of contractor services at Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW), which represents more than 700 pharmacy owners in Wales on NHS matters, said: “We are pleased to be working alongside Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW), in respect of the implementation of e-prescribing in Wales, and see the development as a key enabler for community pharmacies.
“DHCW recently attended a series of CPW contractor events to provide information to the network in advance of the roll-out commencing later this year”.
Scotland was the first UK country to set up an electronic prescription service in 2009.
In England, the EPS has been in place since November 2019.