More than 85 per cent of primary care prescriptions in England are now processed electronically, after a rise in use of the service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Latest data from NHS Digital, covering April 2020, shows that 86 per cent of prescriptions dispensed within primary care in England were processed using the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS).
That is an increase of more than 10 percentage points since February, when the usage was 73 per cent. In April 2019, the usage was 68 per cent.
Increased use of the EPS has benefitted patients and clinicians during the coronavirus crisis as processing prescriptions electronically reduces the need for face-to-face contact and unnecessary journeys, said NHS Digital.
During April this year, use of EPS was expanded into GP access/virtual hubs, walk-in centres and out-of-hours settings. This expansion and focus on increasing the use of EPS in urgent care has contributed to increase in prescriptions processed using this system.
In EPS, patients can choose or 'nominate' a pharmacy and/or Dispensing Appliance Contractor for their prescriptions to be sent to electronically.
One-off nomination is now available in many GP practices and other care settings, allowing prescriptions to be sent to an alternative pharmacy without affecting patients’ existing nominations and avoiding the need for paper.
Latest figures show that 54 per cent of GP practices are now using phase 4 of EPS, which allows the service to be used for patients without a nominated pharmacy and prescriptions to be downloaded using the unique prescription identity document.
GPs have also been encouraged to transfer patients to electronic repeat dispensing (eRD). The need for patients to individually consent to being moved to eRD has temporarily been suspended to enable increased use during the coronavirus response.