The pilot, which was due to be trialled across 16 GP practices in “early autumn”, has now been pushed back to accommodate the expected “intense period” over winter, a spokesperson for NHS Digital told C+D last week (October 3).
Under the “phase four” pilot, patients who have signed up to EPS but have not nominated a pharmacy will be given a paper token to present at any pharmacy in England, which will then be scanned to download the prescription.
NHS Digital said it originally planned to launch the scheme “before the extra pressures of the winter period”. But while the pilot is “almost ready”, it is “vital that every detail of every aspect of the pilot stage is fully complete” before launch, the spokesperson added.
“A short postponement will mean the time between launch and winter pressures is tight,” they explained. It will provide a new launch date as soon as it is able.
NHS Digital is also yet to confirm which areas will pilot the new service and how long the trial will last.
In July, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) warned that “all pharmacy teams need to be ready” for the EPS tokens pilot, as affected patients can choose any pharmacy to collect their medicines from.
In August, NHS Digital told C+D that controlled drugs could be dispensed via EPS from 2017.
Find out how Clifford Mann, clinical lead for NHS England’s accident and emergency improvement plan, thinks pharmacists can help alleviate winter pressures on hospitals here.