Paper prescriptions, once so familiar, are fast becoming a thing of the past. In England they were phased out in 2019. Electronic prescriptions have been available in Scotland for many years. There are also plans to introduce them in Wales and Northern Ireland in the coming years.
When the move was announced in England it was reported that it would save the NHS £300 million over two years and make the process more convenient for patients and save staff time.
The majority of prescriptions are now signed, sent and processed electronically.
You can choose a pharmacy to dispense all your prescriptions. After a prescription is issued to you, it is sent electronically to the dispenser you have selected. This enables you to collect your medicines or appliances without having to hand in a paper prescription. Patients can also choose to receive a paper prescription with a digital barcode.
Medical information is held on a secure database which allows a patient’s medication to be accessed by GPs and pharmacies. Instead of using a physical signature, patients digitally sign and cancel electronic prescriptions.
Patients can change or cancel their choice of dispenser at any time. They can speak to their GP or pharmacist before ordering their next prescription.
It means you are able to collect repeat prescriptions from a pharmacy without visiting your GP. Also, you won’t be able to lose your prescription as would be the case if it was paper!
If a prescriber – for example, doctor or practice nurse – thinks a patient would benefit from receiving electronic repeat prescriptions for their regular medicines, they will ask them for permission to share information about their treatment with their pharmacist.
A number of electronic repeat prescriptions will then be authorised based on the patient’s circumstances and clinical need. The pharmacy will then supply the prescriptions to the patient on a regular basis.
The patient collects their first electronic repeat prescription from the pharmacy, returning when more medicines are needed.
Before dispensing the next issue of the prescription, the pharmacy will ask some questions. They will include if the patient has seen any health professionals since the last repeat prescription was supplied. Has the patient recently started taking any new medicines? Have they experienced any problems with their medication or noticed any side-effects? Are there any items on the repeat prescription that the patient doesn’t need this month?
It is important for patients to let pharmacy staff know if they don’t need all of the medicines on the prescription. This will help to reduce waste and save the NHS money.
When the final electronic repeat prescription in the series is supplied by the pharmacy, the patient will be asked to contact their GP practice. The practice may want to review the patient’s medication before more electronic repeat prescriptions are authorised.
Electronic repeat prescriptions have benefits for patients and dispensers. They make the repeat dispensing process more efficient, improve stock control, reduce medicine waste, enhance patient safety and reduce the amount of paper that is used.