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Increase in use of electronic prescriptions during COVID-19 pandemic

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85% of medication was prescribed electronically 85% of medication was prescribed electronically

More than 85% of primary care prescriptions in England are now processed electronically, after a rise in use of the service during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to statistics from NHS Digital, 86% of prescriptions dispensed within primary care in England were processed using the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS). That is an increase of more than 10% since February, when the usage was 73%. In April 2019, usage was 68%.

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.

‘Sending prescriptions electronically not only increases efficiency and saves the NHS money, it also helps patients and staff practice social distancing by reducing contacts,’ said Sam Robinson, Associate Director of Live Services at NHS Digital.

Latest figures show that 54% 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 ID. Roll-out of EPS Phase 4 began last November.

GPs have also been encouraged to transfer patients to electronic repeat dispensing. This means that for patients with regular medication, a batch of prescriptions can be issued which will be available, at set intervals, to the patient’s nominated pharmacy. Medication can therefore be prepared in advance by the pharmacy, without patients having to request it from their practice each time. Before dispensing the medication, the pharmacist will confirm it is still safe, appropriate for the patient and that they still require a supply, and answer any questions they may have.

‘We are proud that EPS is supporting clinicians and prescribers to care for patients during this challenging time,’ added Mr Robinson.

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