A pilot scheme is in place that hopes to ensure that more than 95% of GP prescriptions will be processed electronically in the future. The hope is that electronic prescriptions will save the NHS both time and money. Before the scheme, the only prescriptions that could be electronically processed were ones where the patient had a nominated dispenser.
Now, NHS Digital is piloting a scheme called Phase 4 which means that all patients can benefit from a digital system that is much more efficient. Currently, there are eight GP practices that are trialling Phase 4, while more will pilot the scheme in 2019. Should the pilot be successful, then the efficient digital system will be rolled out across all GP practices in England.
For patients, they will see no real difference in how they are prescribed medicines by their GP or how the pharmacist will process the prescription. Patients will still receive a paper copy of their prescription, but this paper copy will also have a barcode printed on it. Pharmacists can then scan the barcode to download the prescription from the highly secure NHS database, known as NHS Spine.
For patients who have a nominated pharmacy, they will not receive a paper copy. Instead, the electronic copy will be sent straight to the pharmacy for processing. Once fully rolled out, it is hoped that electronic prescriptions could save the NHS £300 million every year.
What are the benefits of electronic prescriptions?
The NHS will achieve the savings as the prescription processes will be much faster and more secure, meaning more prescriptions can be processed and reducing the pressure on resources. Furthermore, prescriptions cannot be lost as they will be kept electronically. This reduces the need for doctors to sign replacement copies.
NHS Digital will also introduce an Electronic Prescription Service Tracker so that clinicians can keep track of the status of prescriptions.
The Director of Digital Medicines and Pharmacies at NHS Digital, Ian Lowry explains; “The launch of this pilot is excellent news for GPs, pharmacists and patients and is a further important step towards the digital future for NHS prescribing and dispensing. Every single prescription that is sent electronically, rather than via paper, saves money for the NHS as less time and valuable resource is spent processing and storing the paper prescriptions.”