Prescription warning: Government set to scrap paper prescriptions to save NHS £300million

The traditional green paper prescription will no longer be issued as of November. Instead, a new digital version will be used to issue medicine to patients. Regulations that prevent GPs sending prescriptions to pharmacies digitally in some circumstances will be dropped. Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, said the move would also be far more convenient for patients, while also saving staff crucial time.

As part of our long-term plan, I want the NHS to become the most advanced healthcare system in the world

Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary

Mr Hancock said: “In an NHS where thousands of GP surgeries already enjoy the benefits of electronic prescriptions, it can’t be right that there are occasions when archaic paper prescriptions still have to be used.

“As part of our long-term plan, I want the NHS to become the most advanced healthcare system in the world.

“Electronic prescribing both saves GPs’ time and helps to give patients a better, more seamless experience and ensures every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent effectively.”

The NHS is moving with the digital times and is also using this method to help save over £300million over the next two years.

Primary Care Minister, Jo Churchill, announced this new initiative will be entitled the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS).

The EPS will be rolled out nationally after a trial run in 60 GP practices and hundreds of pharmacies.

The first EPS went live in 2009 at a GP surgery and pharmacy in Leeds and The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is hoping the ease of service will ensure a smooth national run.

Currently, at least 70 percent of all prescriptions are already being prescribed and dispensed through EPS.

The DHSC has already received positive feedback from GPs and pharmacies.

Under the new system, patients can get their medications by either nominating a pharmacy that will receive the details directly from their GP or receive a paper prescription with the digital barcode.

The medical information is held on a secure NHS database called Spine and will allow a patient’s medication to be accessed quickly by GPs and pharmacies.

Ms Churchill said: “Digitising the entire prescription service is a key part of keeping up the drive to make the NHS fit for the 21st century.

“This will free up vital time for GPs and allow pharmacists to spend more time with their patients, and save millions of pounds a year.

It’s another important step towards eventually making all prescriptions paperless.

We are continuing to improve technology across the NHS, which will ultimately improve care for patients.”

Dr Ian Lowry, the director of digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: “The system is also safer and more secure as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online.”

Ministers expect the switch to be made this autumn, subject to approval of the necessary regulatory changes.

There will continue to be a bar on electronic prescriptions of some controlled drugs or “specials”.

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