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Any pharmacy could now receive a CD script via EPS as pilot goes live

Oral liquid methadone with a packaged dose endorsement will still require a paper prescription
Oral liquid methadone with a packaged dose endorsement will still require a paper prescription

Any pharmacy in England could now receive an electronic prescription for a controlled drug since a pilot has gone live across 10 GP practices, C+D has learned.

The pilot to enable GP practices to prescribe schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs through the electronic prescription service (EPS) went live on Tuesday (October 2), NHS Digital confirmed to C+D.

Ten GP practices using the IT systems Vision and EMIS in Yorkshire, the north west and London are now able to send controlled drugs such as morphine and tramadol via EPS, it said.

However, as patients can choose to have their prescriptions dispensed anywhere in England, all pharmacies need to be aware they could receive an electronic prescription for controlled drugs, NHS Digital added.

Methadone exception

There are some exceptions to the service – including “oral liquid methadone with a packaged dose endorsement”, as “not all dispensing systems are able to endorse electronic prescriptions” for the product, it explained.

“A paper prescription will still need to be generated for this drug.”

Prescribers will also not be able to use EPS for prescribing in instalments, it stressed.

“Fewer patient visits”

Dr Vishen Ramkisson, NHS Digital senior clinical lead for digital medicines and pharmacy, told C+D the organisation hopes the pilot “will be rolled out further after the trial period”.

“It is another major milestone in implementing electronic prescriptions and helps to support patient safety by reducing the likelihood of errors and improving governance in the prescribing process,” he added.

“More efficient processes and fewer visits to drop off paper prescriptions will help make sure these patients can be more comfortable.”

More information on the EPS controlled drugs pilot can be found on the NHS Digital website.

What is your experience with EPS?

Madni Sheikh, Locum pharmacist

What is to prevent the evening staff printing the same prescription and dispensing it,  after it was already dispensed by the morning shift staff; what is to prevent the umpteen number of copies of the same prescription being printed & being dispensed umpteen number of times? Looks highly insecure & liable for exploitation.

John Cleese, Production & Technical

I think you need to look for a job in a different pharmacy.

Garthe Knight, Production & Technical

All PMR systems should categorically prevent the dispensing of the same EPS prescription multiple times. If your system allows this, then this should be flagged as a matter of urgency as a clinical safety incident with your system supplier's help desk asking them to also raise it with NHS Digital.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I think the system falls somewhere between the comments made by Bob Dunkley & Leon the Apothecary. Added to that, patients and some GPs just don't understand how it works

Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Not so much the GP but their staff.


Leon The Apothecary, Student

I personally think it's about time we have controlled drugs on EPS. Overall, EPS has been very good in getting prescriptions sent out to pharmacies a lot more efficiently than paper, however, the system still has some functional gaps to be considered complete.

Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

I’ve never liked EPS and I’m relatively IT savvy, it’s a very sophisticated system operated by very unsophisticated people and thus things go wrong. When it works, it’s a marvel, but the outages are just too frequent to enable me to have much faith in it. 

Bob Dunkley 

John Cleese, Production & Technical

That's the spirit!

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