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Wales launches innovation fund for pharmacy systems suppliers

The fund aims to help suppliers of pharmacy systems in the country to deliver an electronic prescription service

The Welsh government has launched funding for pharmacy system suppliers to help deliver electronic prescriptions.

The fund, which will be delivered by the Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio and Life Sciences Hub Wales on behalf of the Welsh government, will provide grants to suppliers, allowing them to develop their systems so they are able to support the electronic transfer of prescriptions.

The electronic prescription service (EPS) will allow GPs to send prescriptions digitally to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice. Suppliers can also submit bids for financial support to deliver innovations to help with the country’s goal of paperless dispensing, and that will integrate with the NHS Wales app.

The NHS Wales app is due to go into public beta shortly, and will steadily be rolled out to GP practices across Wales, giving patients a range of functionalities on the app, including appointment booking, ordering repeat prescriptions and viewing their summary care record (SCR).

The innovation fund consists of three tiers where suppliers can submit bids, including developing and implementing changes in community pharmacy systems to allow for electronic prescribing to an assured patient medication record. Suppliers must have successfully completed this before being able to apply for further funding.

The other tiers cover being able to send push notifications to the app, advising people that their prescription is ready to collect, location of the pharmacy and its opening hours, and paperless community pharmacy dispensing.  

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The chief pharmaceutical officer for Wales, Andrew Evans, said that as digital prescriptions make inroads in Welsh primary care, the aim is to encourage community pharmacies “to better utilise digital technology in their day-to-day work to create opportunities to work more efficiently, improving patients’ experience”.

“The Community Pharmacy System Innovation Fund will help pharmacies and their IT systems to operate in a truly paperless way, able to digitally receive, process and track prescriptions, and notify patients when their prescription is ready, building on capability within the NHS Wales App,” he said.

“The fund is major step forward for community pharmacies in Wales and will help them realise the significant opportunities presented by digital ways of working.”

The hope is that introducing electronic prescribing in primary care will not only enable safer management of repeat prescriptions and improved data security, but it will also free up time for GPs, giving them more time to spend with patients.

By not being required to attend the GP surgery to collect a prescription form, it will also free up time for patients.

The Welsh government also hopes that by providing electronic prescriptions, pharmacies will be able to reduce the use of paper, and predicts that when fully rolled out, the electronic prescription service will eliminate the printing of more than 40 million paper prescription forms every year.

Commenting on the fund, Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio senior responsible owner Hamish Laing said: “We are excited to be launching this fund, which provides a crucial opportunity to support not just the technical changes needed to implement EPS in Wales, but also improvements that will help modernise pharmacy practice and provide a much better service and experience for patients.”

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