Last reviewed 5 November 2019
From 18 November all GP prescriptions will be issued digitally as part of the final phase of the roll-out of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS).
Under the new system, patients who have nominated a pharmacy will still have their prescriptions sent electronically but those patients who do not have a nominated pharmacy will receive a paper copy of their prescription with a barcode, which pharmacy staff will scan to download the electronic prescription from the NHS Spine.
Currently, 70% of prescriptions are already prescribed electronically and, following the roll-out, almost all will be sent electronically, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The service was piloted by 60 GP practices, during which time 329,000 prescriptions were dispensed by more than 3100 community pharmacies.
According to NHS England, 32 million patients in England have nominated a pharmacy under the EPS. It is estimated that it will save the NHS £300 million by 2021 through increased efficiencies, reduced processing of paper and fewer prescribing errors. NHS England said it believes the new process will lead to a "more efficient, faster and secure service".
The roll-out of the EPS Phase 4 will begin with practices using TPP SystmOne and continue into next year with other system suppliers.
NHS Digital Digital Medicines and Pharmacy Director Dr Ian Lowry announced: "Every prescription that is sent electronically saves money for the NHS by increasing efficiency. The system is also safer and more secure, as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online.
"Building upon the success of the existing service, this is a huge milestone to reach, and one which benefits patients, GPs, pharmacists and the NHS as a whole."
Primary Care Minister Jo Churchill added that digitising the entire prescription service will free up vital time for GPs and allow pharmacists to spend more time with their patients.