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PSNC: Use new tool to check for EPS issues

HSCIC produced the tool after it found that EPS users did not receive enough information on service outages

The negotiator says the Health and Social Care Information Centre's online service report is a "major step" to improving information about EPS problems

A new tool from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) allows pharmacists to "see at glance" if there are any problems with the electronic prescription service (EPS), PSNC has said.

Pharmacy teams experiencing EPS issues could use the online service report to check whether there was a national service outage, or whether their problem was specific to their PMR system or pharmacy, PSNC said last week (June 17). It described this as a "major" improvement, which would give teams "confidence" to know when to contact their EPS provider for support.

PSNC said the tool provided live information on any national or localised issues with the national services that EPS relies on: central NHS IT system the Spine; the Care Identity Service, which manages smartcard access; and N3, the network through which pharmacists connect to NHS services.

The negotiator added that an ongoing HSCIC review of how EPS incidents are logged, communicated and resolved had revealed that a lack of information about outages was users' “main issue” with the system. The new tool was a “first step, albeit a major one”, to solving this problem, PSNC said.

Pharmacists needed to insert their EPS smartcard to access the website containing the tool, PSNC said. The site also stored details of past outages, it said.

HSCIC was developing further ways to improve the management of EPS, which volunteers would test as part of its review, PSNC added.

Last week, a C+D poll revealed that nearly four in 10 readers faced daily problems with EPS.


How could HSCIC further improve EPS?

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Jon Flitcroft, Community pharmacist

Not sure how useful this will be as at the business change meetings held before we all went over to EPS2 the standard response from the HSCIC representative was "contact your PMR supplier". Whatever this tool shows us we will still have to contact PMR supplier. Regarding other posts about time taken to dispense notify. It has taken me in total nearly 5 hours( ...and counting) to dispense notify 452 tokens and then claim 900 tokens. That is one client PC out of action for a significant period of time. Luckily we have others to use but what if you only have 1 or 2 PCs in the dispensary........what do you do then??

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

And maybe if sufficient people have conversations with their PMR supplier along the lines of "My competitor using the leading EPS PMR system is having hardly any problems with operating EPS and using your system is like wading uphill through treacle", the PMR supplier might produce something fit for the present day. Yes, there are occasional problems with the Spine. But as there is at least one PMR implementation that is simple to use and rarely has problems, this indicates that the majority of problems are due to PMR systems where EPS functionality is (loosely) bolted onto old software that will never deliver the best results. The new HSCIC tool should indicate where the fault lies.

Jon Flitcroft, Community pharmacist

deleted due to double post

Jon Flitcroft, Community pharmacist

Agree completely and we are looking at the system you suggest, however the £30k quote is somewhat off putting. I am on the phone daily to our PMR supplier trying to sort out problems and have been promised a new version is coming, when, they couldn't tell me. I'm not holding my breath

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Yes, expensive, but I have long felt that we would need at least one extra member of staff per pharmacy if we were using one of the alternatives.

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Unlike the first two commenters I think this tool is a masterstroke by HSCIC, enabling people to see how infrequently any transmission issues are due to the Spine. We regularly get asked by surgeries if we can still download EPS scripts. "Yes, no problem" is our usual response. This new tool will stop PMR suppliers hiding behind the excuse that the problem is with the Spine.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

Any money spent on this tool that does not get the thing working any quicker would have been better spent on funding extra computers needed to help with making claims for EPS2 scripts. PSNC definitely missed a trick when "negotiating" extra IT funding for switching on r1 and r2. They never thought about how much time would be spent making claims on existing computers in a pharmacy. If you already had two computers it would have been because they were needed already for labelling etc. in busy pharmacies. If those busy pharmacies now experience, as some places do, around 90% of all scripts coming through as r2 then they should not be expected to kick someone off one busy computer to make the claims. A dispensary computer supplier by now should have come up with a simple device that lets someone make claims without having to use yet another PC. Perhaps system suppliers want to bring such a device to market but HSCIC are dragging their heals when it comes to agreeing the specs or funding. I suggest HSCIC, system suppliers, PSNC etc get the claims side sorted before looking at the next big thing that is called Phase 4. Phases 1,2 and 3 are still works in progress guys!

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

What a waste of Money in creating such tools and continuing to still support such an idiotic system. Example: I am unable to download the script from the spine. It does not matter to me whether the problem is national or not, the first port of call is always the PMR supplier (some even send messages informing there is an issue with the spine) who will then say where the problem is and will sort out straight away if it is local and is only related to my system. If it is national/ regional or more than 1 Pharmacy, they will keep sending message "we are looking in to the matter and will sort it out as soon as possible". The only possible use of this tool can be to sue the PMR supplier if they said the problem was with the spine and not with their system. But, unfortunately we can't do the same if it is the problem with spine. Please either scrape this system or spend money wisely on improving the efficiency of the system. We want solutions not just diagnostic tools !!!

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