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EPS pilot allowing dispensing from unnominated pharmacies to expand

Previously patients could only take an electronic prescription to a nominated pharmacy
Previously patients could only take an electronic prescription to a nominated pharmacy

A pilot enabling patients to collect medicines via the EPS from any pharmacy in the country, even without a nomination, will be expanded to more GP surgeries, PSNC has said.

A pilot of the electronic prescription service (EPS) Phase 4 has been rolled out in eight GP practices in Greater Manchester, Essex, south-east London and Devon, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said in a statement last week (December 10).

Up to 11 more GP surgeries are scheduled to join the pilot in January, PSNC said.

“If the pilot is determined as successful, EPS Phase 4 will be deployed to further sites after January 2019,” it added.

In EPS Phase 4, patients receive a paper barcode from a GP, which they can take to any pharmacy in England for the pharmacy to download their prescriptions from the central NHS spine.

Previously, patients using the EPS could only receive prescriptions from a pharmacy that they had nominated.  

In EPS Phase 4 the barcode will be on paper, but “in time may be available in an electronic format” such as via email or through an app, PSNC said. The barcode will replace the hand-signed prescription, though both are on paper.

“Helping with efficiency”

Farhan Ali, a pharmacist manager at a Lloydspharmacy in Ramsbottom, Manchester – one of the first stores to dispense an unnominated prescription – told C+D earlier this month that the move “is helping with the efficiency of the pharmacy”.

Mr Ali said: “Less phone calls to surgeries to track unattributed prescriptions means we can spend more time in the pharmacy, spending meaningful time with patients.”

NHS Digital – which launched the service last month (November 30) – said the move will save time and make prescriptions more secure. The pilot will also reduce paper processing, as pharmacies dispensing via EPS Phase 4 do not have to send paper records to the NHS Business Services Authority, it added.

What do you think of the pilot of EPS Phase 4?

Mark Pedder, Manager

The main advantage won't be paper costs.  It's the removal of manual re-entry of the data that has been exported out of the GPs system onto paper Rx back into the pharmacy's system initially and then the central NHS reimbursement authority's system.  That delivers the logistical/admin/security cost savings that CA refers to above.

So this allows for patients that don't want to nominate to be part of the EPS process, but does it give patients flexibility to take a barcode token to a pharmacy next door whilst leaving their existing nomination for repeats from a different pharmacy in place? 

That just leaves handwritten Rx for home visits now -  but I guess that growing numbers of GPs have EPS ability through a mobile version of their clinical system - so will they need a portable barcode printer.....

Adam Smith, Senior Management

Mark Pedder. Yes. A few Xmas drinks down but nice to see someone who gets it. 

C A, Community pharmacist

EPS token paper is thinner - so likely to be cheaper

EPS token paper has "token not to be used as a prescription, even if signed by a prescriber" printed on it - therefore reduces the risk of theft or fraud - if what is written on the token doesn't match the electronic data (or there is no electronic data) then the patient isn't getting any POMs.  So there is probably logistical/admin/security cost savings to be realised too.

That said paper scripts have their place - it's more efficient for a patient to present with a script (or token in this case) and hand it in for dispensing, that to turn up and say "The doctor sent through a script by email/fax/carrier pigeon"/what ever other way the patient has construed what the doctor actually said, which you then have to decipher and find. Plus it's a "nice" way to end a consultation.

Aldosterone antagonist, Locum pharmacist

'In EPS Phase 4, patients receive a paper barcode from a GP, which they can take to any pharmacy in England for the pharmacy to download their prescriptions from the central NHS spine.'

Excuse my ignorance but why can't the doctor just print them off an FP10. Is there a big cost difference between the FP10 paper and EPS token paper?

Ahmed Omar, Administration & Support

The EPS token can be printed by a receptionist as long as it is electronically signed. Sometimes GP can sign Rx remotely. 

Richard MacLeavy, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

Yes there is a big cost saving. The time taken to process prescription re-imbursement. EPS has effectly automated this process from the pricing authority end, albeit with extra work at the pharmacy end.  Interestingly the report states that on Issue 4 no paper records need to be sent to the business services authority. I assume this refers to dispensing tokens, and means pharmacies do not have to return tokens with the end of month bundle. My understanding is that currently we only do this for the purpose of the pricing authority being able to check exemptions. I wonder if thats why there has been so much discussion recently about pharmacies being considered for doing this task in future. Are we looking at a future where there is no end of month process?

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