Six NHS hospital trusts in England have begun sending outpatient prescriptions electronically to community pharmacies, The Pharmaceutical Journal has learned.
The rollout of the electronic prescription service (EPS) for secondary care follows a pilot which took place in three hospital trusts in June and July 2020 to support COVID-19 patients.
A spokesperson for NHS England confirmed that Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT), Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust, North East London NHS Foundation Trust, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) and Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have started using the EPS for secondary care.
They added that the trusts’ IT systems had been assured against an updated EPS application programming interface developed by NHS England.
MPFT was the first secondary care provider in England to implement the EPS. Andrew Campbell, director of pharmacy at the trust, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the system had been “groundbreaking” since its adoption in March 2022.
“To date, we have generated over 65,000 prescriptions and have 263 prescribers using the system. The benefits to both the trust and our patients are overwhelming,” Campbell said.
“The reduction in travel and paper usage results in both cost and time saving as well as having great sustainability benefits too. We are excited to continue expanding the offer of EPS through our services and seeing the future benefits it will bring.”
BHRUT started using the EPS in July 2023, and was the second trust in the country to go live. It is using the EPS in ophthalmology, rheumatology, gastroenterology and its virtual ward.
Sarla Drayan, chief pharmacist at BHRUT, said: “There are many benefits of this new EPS. It helps streamline how patients get the medication they need following their hospital appointment, reduces clinician time spent managing manual prescriptions, and improves safety by reducing the risk of missing prescriptions.
“It also gives us greater visibility and accountability of drug usage in our clinics by providing more timely medication usage information, and it is supporting new ways of working, such as our virtual ward.”
Information published on the NHS Digital website says that “doctors can prescribe any medicine available on the NHS via EPS in hospitals”. Non-medical prescribers, including pharmacists, can also prescribe “a limited range of medicines within their area of expertise”.
Secondary care prescribers can also view the pharmacy that the patient has nominated to receive their prescription. If the nominated pharmacy is not appropriate, the prescriber can select a ‘one-off’ nomination to a community pharmacy listed in the NHS directory of services.
Digital-only prescriptions in primary care were rolled out nationally in 2019, and NHS Digital figures show that 95% of prescription items in primary care were issued electronically in 2021/2022.
In a statement published in February 2023, Rahul Singal, chief pharmacy and medicines information officer at NHS England, said that EPS had “revolutionised practice in general practice and community pharmacy”.
“Our next focus is to introduce EPS into more care settings, including more health settings, such as hospital outpatient departments, so the benefits can be realised for even more clinicians and patients across the NHS,” Singal said.