The pilot will enable the five practices to prescribe schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs through the electronic prescription service (EPS), NHS Digital confirmed to C+D last week (September 29).
It could not give C+D a specific launch date for the pilot but the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it anticipated the timings will be announced “shortly”.
The pharmacies that usually dispense prescriptions from the GP practices involved in the pilot will be informed in advance, NHS Digital said.
However, “all other pharmacies in England will be advised they could receive an EPS prescription that includes controlled drugs”, it added.
NHS Digital told C+D last year that EPS would not be able to handle controlled drugs until 2018, when systems suppliers would have the capability.
“The functionality needed to be available in all pharmacies before we [could] start the pilot,” NHS Digital told C+D last week. “In time all GP practices will include this functionality.”
The GP practices involved in the pilot would be those using the Vision GP IT system in the North West and London, NHS Digital said.
It added that “subject to the pilot being successful”, further GP practices that use ‘Vision’ will begin using EPS to prescribe controlled drugs.
The Department of Health changed the law in 2015 to allow schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs, including opiates and barbiturates, to be dispensed through EPS.
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.