The expansion of electronic prescriptions to schedules 2 and 3 controlled drugs will make pharmacists' and patients' lives easier, pharmacists have said.
The Department of Health (DH) announced last month that it would remove the requirement for paper prescriptions for these drugs, which include opiates and barbiturates. The move will take effect on July 1.
Reena Barai, owner of S.G. Barai pharmacy in Sutton, said the current requirement for paper prescriptions for most controlled drugs, was “very frustrating”.
She said it would be "ideal" for as many drugs as possible to go through EPS, but highlighted the need for a back-up plan.
“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got contingency plans for when EPS isn’t working,” Ms Barai added.
North East London LPC secretary Hemant Patel said that anything that “makes the patient journey easier should be welcomed”.
Although EPS had the “potential to fail”, Mr Patel said there was no such thing as a "risk-free system"
Amanda Smith, manager of Heath Pharmacy in Halifax, said the change would “definitely make life easier” because the current system “caused confusion”.
She added it would be “better for urgent scripts” because “we have to send the driver to the surgery to wait for them before we can dispense and deliver”.
The DH perspective
The DH said the move would “improve patient care” and “reduce diversion and illicit supply” of the drugs.
Its decision was the result of a consultation that ran from July to October last year, which sought views from all stakeholders including the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and home office ministers.
From 136 written responses, 96 per cent agreed that prescribing of schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs could be done electronically, suggesting it would eliminate the potential for CD prescriptions to be “diverted, intercepted or altered by patients”, the DH said.
Under the new system, prescribers will still have to write quantities of drugs in both words and figures, and they will need to use an advanced electronic signature.
Both private and NHS prescriptions will need to adhere to these security measures, which the DH said would “guarantee” that the same standards were used by all.
The DH added that it had no concerns over security because electronic prescriptions had been used for schedule 4 and 5 controlled drugs since 2005 with “no known security issues”.