NPfIT e-prescriptions: an important new step?

[Anyone reading this article should take note of an important anonymous comment at the end, which explains clearly an important difference between e-prescribing for secondary care and the NPfIT Electronic Prescription Service.]

Glyn Hayes, a former chairman of the British Computer Society’s Health Informatics Forum, says that the e-prescriptions project is arguably the most important part of the NPfIT in terms of the safety of patients.

He told the Conservative Technology Forum at Westminster in May 2009 that e-prescribing systems will reduce medication errors which, he said, are killing hundreds of patients every year in the UK.

“One of my pleas would be: let’s not wait another four years for the roll-out [of e-prescribing]. We need electronic prescribing now. This IT is there to help patient care.”

The introduction of e-prescriptions was a key main objective of the NHS’s £12.7bn National Programme for IT.

Below is an announcement this week on e-prescriptions. The press release is from the Department of Health rather than NHS Connecting for Health which is being merged with the department.

First Electronic Prescription Service Goes Live in Leeds

Patients in Leeds will be the first patients in England to benefit from the introduction of Release 2 of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), the Department of Health says.

Patients from Calverley Medical Centre who have ‘nominated’ Liptrots pharmacy will no longer have to call at the GP surgery just to pick up a paper prescription – the GP will send the prescription electronically to the nominated pharmacy.

Liptrots pharmacy currently uses the Cegedim Pharmacy Manager system and has been using EPS Release 1 since 2007. Calverley Medical Centre has been using EPS Release 1 since 2006 and currently use CSC/TPP SystmOne.

EPS Release 2 is a necessary evolution from the out of date paper system.  With 1.5 million prescriptions being issued every day across England and the total increasing by 5% every year, the NHS needs an efficient, clinically safe, electronic system, able to cope with this pattern of prescribing.

EPS Release 2 will provide benefits for patients, prescribers, dispensers and their staff.

For patients the extent of the benefits will depend on their individual circumstances. They include:

– A more convenient service with a reduction in trips to the GP practice just to collect a paper prescription. This is particularly relevant for patients on repeat medication – around 70% of prescriptions nationally are issued for repeat medication.

– Greater freedom of choice, making it simpler for them to use a pharmacist convenient to them.

– Potential to reduce pharmacy waiting times as prescriptions can be prepared in advance of the patient arriving.  

For GPs and pharmacies, benefits include:

– Reduction in workload at GP practices generated by patients collecting individual prescriptions from the GP surgery

– The ability to sign prescriptions electronically will be more efficient for GPs

– The ability for GPs to electronically cancel prescriptions at any point until they are dispensed.

– Reduction in the need for pharmacy staff to re-key prescription information into pharmacy systems.

– In time will remove the need for pharmacy staff to collect prescriptions where they offer a prescription collection service.     
In order to ensure that only authorised personnel are able to access the Electronic Prescription Service, access will be via Smartcard. The Smartcard will grant users with different levels of access depending on their function within the prescribing/dispensing process. Essentially, details of the prescription will only be seen by people with the appropriate level of access to the system.

Tim Donohoe, Programmes and Operations Director for NHS Connecting for Health said:

“This is a key milestone for EPS. We have been working closely with the suppliers, CSC/TPP and Cegedim, as well as Leeds PCT, Calverley Medical Centre and Liptrots pharmacy in Leeds to introduce EPS Release 2, which will bring real benefits to patients, GP practices and pharmacy staff.

“We will now focus on learning the lessons from this initial implementation and encouraging other suppliers and PCTs to progress with their plans to deliver the benefits of EPS Release 2 to every GP practice and pharmacy in England.”

Local pharmacist, Jim Liptrot adds, “I am sure that this service will be of real benefit to patients and healthcare professionals. It will provide a convenient, flexible, safe and efficient service. I am delighted that our pharmacy is at the forefront of this important and pioneering technological system.”


First e-prescription service goes live – Kable

NPfIT – the good and not so good – IT Projects blog

Homerton rejects NPfIT FOI request – IT Projects blog