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No need for "suitable" patients to opt-in to electronic repeat scripts

The need for patients to individually consent to receive their medication via electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) has been temporarily suspended amid COVID-19, NHS England has said.

  • "Clincially suitable patients", including those who have already had medication dispensed via the electronic prescription service, will temporarily no longer have to individually opt-in to eRD
  • This is to "maximise" the use of the service during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • These new rules are set to expire at the end of June

The change to patient consent requirements is to “maximise use of the eRD system” during the COVID-19 response, NHS England & NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) said in a letter to GPs, community pharmacists and their commissioners last week (June 4).

Previously, patients were required to individually consent to receiving their medication using the eRD system, but practices in England may now transfer any “clinically suitable patient” onto eRD if they are “already receiving, or have agreed to receive, electronic prescriptions”.

The letter sets out the requirements for these “temporary changes to the need for patient consent”. Patients who do not already have electronic prescriptions and who continue to receive paper prescriptions “must not be transferred to eRD without providing consent first”, it stated.

The suspension is set to expire on June 30, with NHSE&I explaining that it will write to primary care teams “nearer to that date”, to confirm if the temporary suspension of the need for patient consent will be “extended or revoked”.

The letter is jointly signed by NHSE&I medical director for primary care Dr Nikita Kanani, chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge, and director of  primary care strategy and NHS contracts Ed Waller.

“We trust and support healthcare professionals to use their clinical judgement when applying this guidance in what we appreciate is a highly challenging, rapidly changing environment,” they said.

RPS and NPA: support for eRD

Professor Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) England board, told C+D earlier this week (June 9) that the “wider roll-out of eRD has been a positive move during COVID-19 to save patients’ time and better manage people’s workload”.

However, she added  that “consent is key to person-centred care”and said the RPS would “welcome moves so that patients can give a broad consent for pharmacy services more widely, enabling pharmacists to use their professional judgment to support patient care”.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) said the organisation welcomes the change to patient consent rules, and that the service “benefits pharmacists, prescribers and patients”.

“This move on consent will streamline the process and we welcome it”, a spokesperson for the NPA told C+D yesterday (June 10).

“There are obvious advantages to eRD during the current pandemic, but many of the benefits apply at all times and we want the service to be more widely used in the future,” it added.

In last week’s letter, NHSE&I advised pharmacies to appoint an “eRD champion” to help with a successful rollout of the service.

Do you agree with the suspension of patient consent requirements?

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