Every GP practice in London is to make the change to an Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), NHS Digital has announced, in a bid to save time in overstretched practices.
Electronic prescriptions will replace paper ones, which are often lost or require urgent signatures from GPs – taking up valuable time and resources.
‘I can now send a prescription straight away to a pharmacist, meaning that patients don’t need to pick it up from the surgery, making it more convenient for them,’ said Farzana Hussain, a GP at The Project surgery in Plaistow, East London.
‘It also saves me time as I no longer have to print off prescriptions. I can send them with just one click. This also makes it easier for me to work remotely and send prescriptions with I’m not in the surgery.
There are 1311 of eligible GP practices now using EPS in London. The EPS system has saved approximately £130 million in the past 3 years.
Additionally, EPS allows GPs to use ‘electronic repeat dispensing’, which will also save time as they can prescribe batches of regular medication for up to 12 months.
‘The Electronic Prescription Service has been fantastic in releasing us form carrying out a lot of paperwork and having to store a big paper audit trail as everything is now stored digitally,’ said Jignesh Patel,
a pharmacist at Rohpharm Pharmacy in Plaistow.
‘It is saving us a lot of time and, when GPs use electronic repeat dispensing, it can save themselves, patient and pharmacists even more time.’
This news comes at a time where GP surgeries are closing at an alarming rate – between 2013 and 2017 there were 445 closures in England alone.
These closures are mostly due to underfunding and GP shortages. According to NHS Digital, EPS allows GP teams to focus on assessing and treating patients – easing the heavy workload in practices.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have said that an ‘urgent overhaul’ is needed.
‘Without enough GPs, excessive workload remains a major problem, exacerbating the pressures that are causing doctors to leave the profession,’ said the RCGP.
The College estimate that by 2020 investment in general practice could potentially be reduced to 8.9% of the NHS budget.
‘Our workload is constantly escalating, both in volume and complexity, and we are constantly firefighting, trying to keep up with demand, without enough resources to do so’ said Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP.