Patients can now collect medicines dispensed using an electronic prescription from any community pharmacy, without having to nominate a pharmacy first, NHS England has said.
In a statement published on 30 January 2024, NHS England said patients are now able to use a barcode on the NHS App to collect their prescriptions, as part of a refresh to functionality on the app.
Previously, patients without a nominated pharmacy would need ‘token’ paper versions of their prescription to collect their medicines from a pharmacy.
Patients with a nominated pharmacy will still be able to collect medicines from that pharmacy as they previously could, without the need for a barcode on the app.
The update to the app will also allow patients to view their prescriptions and see when they have been issued, the statement from NHS England said.
In June 2022, the government originally said in its plan for digital health and social care that patients would be able to track their prescriptions in the NHS App by December 2022.
Patients have been able to use the NHS App to request repeat prescriptions since 2018, and NHS England’s latest statement said this use had increased by 45% over the past year.
NHS England data also show there were 9.4 million repeat prescriptions ordered through the app between October and December 2023, compared with 6.5 million repeat prescriptions in the same period in 2022.
NHS England said the changes to the use of the app were being introduced following a “successful trial” that ran during 2023, involving more than 1 million users.
Commenting on the changes, Vin Diwakar, national director for transformation at NHS England, said: “The NHS App is transforming the way people manage their healthcare, freeing up valuable time for healthcare professionals.
“Giving all patients in England direct access to prescription information through the app means they’ll know when their prescription is issued and avoid delays in collection.
“The new feature will also mean people who haven’t set a nominated pharmacy will be able to present the barcode in the app to a pharmacy of their choice without needing a paper version.”
Daniel Ah-Thion, community pharmacy IT policy manager at Community Pharmacy England, said the app’s new feature would help pharmacy teams with managing non-nominated prescriptions.
“Whilst no single measure will completely eliminate the use of paper within [electronic prescription service (EPS)] processing, we welcome this reduced paper usage by patients.
“The new feature also provides patients with more information about their prescription items, which can help to decrease the number of queries that pharmacy teams need to handle,” he added.
“We know pharmacy teams will continue to encourage patients to enjoy the benefits of EPS nomination. We are dedicated to supporting future EPS and NHS App improvements that build on this feature, such as a uniform ‘ready for collection status’ that streamline pharmacy team processes — a key initiative for NHS England’s Transformation Directorate and pharmacy IT provider.”
NHS Digital figures show that Pharmacy2U had the highest number of active pharmacy electronic prescription nominations as of 26 January 2024, at 796,642.
Lloyds Direct had the second largest number of active pharmacy electronic prescription nominations at 608,270.
Pharmacy2U announced in October 2023 that it had bought Lloyds Direct. In December 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority confirmed that it was investigating whether the sale could result in “a substantial lessening of competition” in markets in the UK.
Current NHS Digital guidance on pharmacy nominations for the EPS says that patients must be informed and give their consent before a nomination is recorded.
Consent does not need to be in writing, but the pharmacy or GP practice must have “an auditable process”, the guidance adds.