The electronic prescription service (EPS) has provided significant time and cost savings to prescribers, pharmacies and patients, NHS Digital has said – and could save pharmacies up to £27,833 annually if it were used for all prescriptions.

In total, the system has saved the NHS £130 million over three years, NHS Digital reports.

Electronic prescribing

The EPS system involves prescribers, such as GPs and practice nurses, sending prescriptions directly to pharmacies. In a patient audit, almost three quarters of respondents said their medicines were ready to collect when they arrived at their pharmacy. EPS has saved patients almost £75 million over the past three years, NHS Digital says.

Pharmacists said they saved around 54 minutes per day on average due to faster dispensing under the NHS, and 43 minutes per day due to fewer trips to GP practices to collect prescription forms. Other reported time savings for those dispensing medicines via the EPS include:

  • Dispensing administrative staff reported that they are saving an average of 79 minutes every day as a result of faster dispensing
  • Entering details on EPS prescriptions takes 11.8 seconds less than on paper
  • Producing a prescription label takes 7.3 seconds less per item than from a paper prescription.

NHS Digital has produced a benefits estimator that calculates savings dispensers and prescribers can expect to achieve by using the EPS. For example, the estimator suggests that a community pharmacy dispensing 25,000 items per month, of which 45 per cent are sent from practices using EPS Release 2, stands to save £1,044 and 72.2 hours each month compared to one using paper prescriptions only.

Pharmacies could save an estimated £27,833 annually if all prescription items – repeat and acute – were received via the EPS, NHS Digital says.

GP practices saved an hour and 20 minutes per day on average as a result of signing electronic repeat prescriptions compared to paper ones, and an average 27 minutes per day by cancelling prescriptions electronically versus paper. 

Luvjit Kandula, chief officer of Leicestershire and Rutland LPC said: “The benefits relating to EPS include a reduced impact on pharmacies in terms of the collecting prescriptions and helping to manage the workload more efficiently.”

“EPS allows more time to prepare prescriptions in advance, particularly when electronic repeat dispensing is adopted.

“As further work is being planned to improve uptake of EPS and repeat dispensing, this will further improve the patient experience and free up more time for clinicians to focus on medicines optimisation and service delivery.”

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