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EPS could handle controlled drugs from next year

Exclusive
NHS Digital originally thought EPS would not be able to handle controlled drugs until 2018

Pharmacists may be able to dispense controlled drugs through the electronic prescription service (EPS) as soon as next year, C+D has learned.

NHS Digital – formerly the Health and Social Care Information Centre – told C+D in February that EPS would not be able to handle prescriptions for schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs until 2018, when system suppliers would have the capability to process them.

But NHS Digital revealed to C+D yesterday (August 2) that it “will be testing a way of allowing controlled drugs to be prescribed and dispensed using [EPS]”.

“If the tests are successful, we hope this service will be available in 2017,” a spokesperson said.

“Available by all suppliers”

NHS Digital would not provide any further details about the test, but said the plans are “dependent on new functionality being made available by all prescribing system suppliers”.

The test will run separately to the pilot of EPS “tokens”, due to run across 16 GP practices in England later this year.

More on controlled drugs

The Department of Health changed the law last year to allow schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs, including opiates and barbiturates, to be dispensed through EPS. NHS Digital confirmed in February that central NHS IT systems are now ready to deliver this.

Since 2005, drugs controlled under schedules 4 and 5 — such as diazepam and preparations containing low strengths of more heavily regulated drugs — have been prescribed electronically.

8 Comments
Question: 
What is your experience with EPS?

Pillman Uk, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I'm sure rolling back or changing legislation would take even longer than 2018,but totally agree that was the flaw in the consultation. I'm not sure it was clarified in the consultation the full impact of insisting on words and figures on the etp message.

I'm hopeful this will be sooner rather than later especially with the push for phase 4

Darren Powell, Community pharmacist

Yes it was great to see NHS Digital/HSCIC get the system suppliers together to work this one out.
It seems the words and figures will be sent as a separate entity, as the eps message wasn't built to do this. I mean who on earth would want words and figures on a digitally secure message - but the consultation resulted in that very request. So we shot ourselves in the foot there and basically caused the issue.
Anyway what's done is done, and at last, by collaboration we seem to be moving forward. Just need to keep the pressure on all system suppliers to follow this through.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

From my understanding a couple of years ago there was never any intention to carry on the words and figures requirement on EPS2 CD scripts, but as the consultation dragged on it was intimated by certain individuals that were part of the consultation process, who should have known better, that "GPs could not possibly cope with remembering to use words and figures when prescribing on non-EPS scripts." If I was a GP I would have felt insulted. However the agreement took place and words and figures on a SECURE EPS2 script had to appear and thus the massive delay to implementation. One pharmacy system supplier told HSCIC they would not be ready until 2018 and HSCIC then went to the GP system suppliers in the hope that their system could cope with adding words using the 4th field when prescribing CD2s and 3s. Once again we reach an impasse somewhere which neither NHS Digital nor the PSNC will tell us who or what is the cause. I'm afraid Darren no amount of pressure from anywhere will speed up implementation. A reversal of the requirement to have words and figures on an EPS2 script would probably happen quicker and would be my solution.

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C A, Community pharmacist

Yet again making EPS follow the format of paper scripts leads to problems...

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