Electronic prescriptions reach one billion a year

From: NHS Digital
Published: Thu Feb 09 2023

The Electronic Prescription Service is now the default method for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions in primary care in England, with almost one billion prescription items dispensed electronically in the last 12 months.

Almost one billion prescription items were dispensed electronically in the last 12 months, with less than 1 in 20 still paper-based.

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) is now the default method for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions in primary care in England.

The number of electronic prescriptions sent to community pharmacies has almost doubled in the past five years according to figures highlighted by NHS England to mark the 18th anniversary of the service.

Prescription items issued electronically topped 996 million (95%) in 2021/22, compared with 532 million in 2016/17 when just under half (48%) were still issued on paper.

The total number of prescription items dispensed each year has also grown from 1.02 billion in 2016/17 to 1.04 billion in 2021/22, with 11,400 pharmacies now signed up to using the electronic service.

The system allows clinicians to send prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy of the patient's choice, making the prescribing and dispensing process more efficient and convenient for patients and staff.

Dr Rabani, GP at Ling House Medical Centre in Keighley, West Yorkshire

Dr Rabani is a GP at Ling House Medical Centre in Keighley, West Yorkshire, where the first electronic prescription was sent 18 years ago. He said:

The Electronic Prescription Service for us in general practice really has been a game-changer. Gone are the days of spending our lunch breaks signing reams of repeat prescriptions by hand.

In terms of patient safety, if we change or cancel a prescription we can amend it in the system instead of phoning the pharmacy and making sure the paper slip is destroyed. And it's been useful for my out-of-hours practice as well. I can look in the system to see the opening hours and addresses of pharmacies to help decide which is the most convenient one for my patient to send their prescription to.

Rahul Singal, Chief Pharmacy and Medicines Information Officer at NHS England, said:

When you look at the number of transactions that are made via the service and how much it's revolutionised practice in general practice and community pharmacy, we'd be pushed to think of another national system that's had more success.

Our next focus is to introduce EPS into more care settings, including more health settings such as hospital outpatient departments so the benefits can be realised for even more clinicians and patients across the NHS.

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is the first secondary care provider in England to implement EPS.

Dr James Briscoe, Consultant Psychiatrist in their Early Intervention team, said:

"It is not too dramatic to state that EPS has revolutionised my practice. I can now write and deliver prescriptions in five minutes compared to the time and effort it took to handwrite a prescription from scratch, arrange for it to be collected by the service user or a member of the team or hand deliver it to a pharmacy. A huge time saving with inbuilt safeguards to enable safe prescribing.

Notes for editors

  1. You can learn more about EPS and its development in our feature article, Electronic prescribing comes of age.

Company: NHS Digital

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