C+D readers are wary of plans to overhaul the electronic prescription service (EPS) by giving patients “tokens” with barcodes.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) announced last month (June 26) that it expected the “vast majority” of paper prescriptions to be replaced by these tokens by March 2017. As part of the changes, scheduled to begin in April 2016, patients will be able to choose whether to receive their token on paper from their GP surgery or electronically, HSCIC said.
Patients will be able to display these tokens at any pharmacy to collect their medicines, but readers posting on the C+D website raised concerns about the reliability of EPS technology.
Superintendent Max Falconer branded the service “not fit for purpose”. “No further enhancements should even be considered until the current inadequate system works properly,” he said.
EPS became so slow by the end of every month that it was “virtually unusable” for sending notifications, he said. “It is highly noticeable that as more EPS scripts are processed, it’s all getting slower and slower.”
A mountain of work
Community pharmacist Clive Hodgson said it was “obvious” that EPS had been designed with “minimal consideration" for the sector. “A mountain of work has merely been transferred from GP surgeries to the pharmacy,” he added.
HSCIC said last month that it would provide “refresher training” for all dispensing staff ahead of the changes, but locum pharmacist David Sarabowski said the systems provider should start by “insisting that all surgeries followed [EPS] protocols”.
A community pharmacist posting as A A predicted that pharmacies would struggle to scan some tokens. “Unless the NHS funds every household in the country to obtain a decent laser printer, there is no guarantee the print quality will be good enough for our scanners to read,” they said.
Community pharmacist Stephen Eggleston insisted that EPS was "great when it works". "The bit to resolve is making it work 100 per cent of the time," he added.
HSCIC said last week that patients would no longer be required to nominate a pharmacy to collect their EPS prescription by 2017. Paper prescriptions would remain available in “special circumstances”, such as if there were "constraints on the prescribed drug" or if the patient had specifically asked for this option, it added.
Last month, a C+D poll showed that nearly four in 10 readers experienced daily problems with EPS.