Electronic prescription service saves millions

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NHS Digital’s electronic prescription service (EPS) has made millions in savings since its launch in 2013, according to a recent analysis.

The EPS has saved GPs, pharmacists and patients time and money by allowing GP surgeries to send prescriptions directly to pharmacies.

The roll-out of the system has saved patients close to £75 million over the past 3 years, while dispensers and prescribers have been saved around £60 million and £327 million, respectively.

Results from 3,000 dispensers and dispensing staff reveal that practices have been able to cut down on the time spent locating, re-printing and cancelling paper prescriptions since the launch of the EPS. Signing electronic repeat prescriptions instead of paper ones has saved GP practices an average of an hour and 20 minutes each day, while producing electronic repeat prescriptions has saved them approximately an hour and 13 minutes each day.

Time-savings have also been made by pharmacists who have cut 54 minutes off the time spent dispensing prescriptions and 43 minutes off the time spent collecting paper prescription forms from GP practices.

Luvjit Kandula, Chief Officer of Leicestershire and Rutland Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: ‘The benefits relating to EPS include a reduced impact on pharmacies in terms of the collecting prescriptions and helping to manage the workload more efficiently.

‘EPS allows more time to prepare prescriptions in advance particularly when electronic repeat dispensing is adopted.’

Close to three-quarters (72%) of patients said their medicines were ready for them when they went to their pharmacy to pick them up, with an average 20-minute quicker prescription collection time under the new system.

NHS Digital says around half of all prescriptions issued in England are now electronic. Plans are underway to further develop the EPS to ‘Phase 4’, in which electronic prescriptions become the default option in primary care and paper prescriptions are reserved only for special circumstances.

Ms Kandula added: ‘As further work is being planned to improve uptake of EPS and repeat dispensing, this will further improve the patient experience and free up more time for clinicians to focus on medicines optimization and service delivery.’