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Wales makes headway with electronic prescriptions roll-out

Electronic prescribing will be deployed in both primary and secondary care, while a shared medicines record will be live by the end of March 2024

NHS Wales has published its first annual review of its Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio (DMTP), showing it is on track to deliver electronic prescribing across the country.

The portfolio includes four different programmes, covering prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines in Wales, and was launched by the Welsh government in April 2022.

This includes the shared medicines record (SMR) programme, aiming to create a single consolidated record of medicines for every patient in Wales, which can then be accessed and shared easily.

The annual review document said that the SMR has now been tested and showed that the information could be “shared safely and efficiently between the different GP record systems in Wales and our SMR. The SMR operational within the National Data Resource by the end of March 2024.”

Currently, prescribing in Wales is largely paper-based, but the electronic prescription service, which will begin to roll out shortly, aims to change that.

The electronic prescription service in primary care is already being tested with a GP practice and pharmacy in Rhyl, allowing GPs to send prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy.

“When this detailed testing phase is complete in early 2024, the electronic prescription service will start to be rolled out across Wales in a phased approach,” the document said.

In April 2023, the government launched an innovation fund for pharmacy system suppliers to develop their systems so they are able to support the electronic transfer of prescriptions.

The review document said that five suppliers have already been awarded grants as part of the scheme so far, which will also help them to integrate with the NHS Wales App.

The app is part of NHS Wales’ patient access programme, and will allow patients to order and manage repeat prescriptions, as well as selecting their preferred pharmacy and view historic medicines and allergies.

“A huge amount of work has taken place to get two key medicines features into the first version of the NHS Wales App, which began testing with the public in early April 2023,” the document said.

“These are ordering repeat prescriptions and being able to see the prescription history. The NHS Wales App can now be downloaded and is being tested with patients in a small number of GP practices across Wales, to make sure it works as planned, is safe and is meeting users’ needs.”

The aim is that within 24 months, patients will be able to access prescription services via the app in every GP surgery in Wales.

In the foreword of the annual review, the programme’s senior responsible owner, Hamish Laing, said: “Medicines are a vitally important part of healthcare, at some point touching the lives of nearly every person living and working in Wales.

“Yet the way we manage medicines, largely using paper processes, has not changed significantly since the birth of the NHS in 1948. I am confident that the work we are undertaking will have significant impact.”

In secondary care, the aim is for all prescriptions and medicines given on hospital wards to be recorded digitally.

Some health boards, including Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, are currently in the process of completing their procurement of their electronic prescription and medicines administration systems (ePMA), while the country’s other health boards are expected to complete their procurement processes by spring 2024, according to the document.

Read more about the NHS tech in Wales:

  • As NHS Wales is due to launch the public version of its own app, Computer Weekly takes a deep dive into the technical aspects of the Welsh NHS app, future plans and whether the expectations for the programme have stacked up to reality.
  • Computer Weekly looks at NHS Wales’ project to create a patient-facing app and a collaborative ecosystem for technology suppliers and NHS providers to deliver joined-up care.
  • The Welsh government has launched funding for pharmacy system suppliers to help deliver electronic prescriptions.

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