Pharmacists will not be able to dispense controlled drugs through the electronic prescription service (EPS) until 2018, C+D has learned.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) cannot allow electronic prescriptions for schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs until system suppliers have the capability to process them, which could take another two years, it told C+D last week (February 4).
"We can't risk a controlled drug going to a site that doesn't have the capability," it said.
The Department of Health changed the law last year to allow the drugs, including opiates and barbiturates, to be dispensed through EPS. HSCIC confirmed that central NHS IT systems are now ready to deliver this.
The organisation is "exploring a range of options" to minimise the impact of the delay on the overall development of EPS. "No decisions have been made," it added.
Pharmacists took to Twitter to blast the "outrageous" delay, labelling it a "shambles".
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.