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Health secretary plans to scrap 'archaic' paper scripts this year

The health secretary will relax regulations around the electronic prescription service (EPS) in an effort to scrap the use of “archaic” paper prescriptions this year.

Regulations which currently “limit the circumstances in which electronic prescriptions can be issued” will be amended “later this year” as part of the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DH) latest push to replace paper prescriptions with electronic ones, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday (August 26).

“In an NHS where thousands of GP surgeries already enjoy the benefits of electronic prescriptions, it can’t be right that there are occasions when archaic paper prescriptions still have to be used,” Mr Hancock stressed.

While there has been a growth in the use and availability of electronic prescribing by the majority of GP surgeries – up from less than 1% in June 2010 to 63% in June 2018 – “hundreds of GPs and pharmacies [are] still to make the move”, the DH said.

Under the amended regulations, patients will no longer have to nominate a pharmacy to collect their electronic prescription, the DH told C+D this morning (August 28).

Currently, patients using EPS need to nominate a pharmacy to collect their medicines from. However, with nearly all pharmacies now able to receive electronic prescriptions, this restriction can be removed, it added.

EPS “tokens”

Once the regulations are changed, patients who have not nominated a pharmacy will be given a paper token with a barcode to present at any pharmacy in England, which can be scanned to download the prescription, NHS Digital explained.

“In [the next] phase of the EPS project, all prescriptions will be electronic,” NHS Digital added.

However, “there will be a need for paper prescriptions for come controlled drugs or specials”, it said.

“We continue to work with clinical system suppliers to develop this capability. When testing an assurance is complete, we will pilot the functionality in a few pilot sites,” NHS Digital told C+D.

NHS Digital told C+D today that it is unable to confirm when these pilots will be launched, but “once the regulations come into force, we will be able to agree a date with the sites”.

What do you make of the health secretary's announcement?

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