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How the NHS App has helped relieve pressure in my pharmacy team

Rupesh Thakkar, a chief pharmacist for a primary care network in Solihull who also supports the Implementation Team in NHS England's Transformation Directorate, describes how the repeat prescriptions feature on the NHS App helped to ease the pressure on primary care services in his area.   

In April 2021 I was working as a chief pharmacist in a primary care network (PCN) with 7 co-located surgery sites. As a team, we regularly received phone calls from patients who wanted to order their repeat medications. There were also many calls to the surgery asking to change pharmacy nominations, checking if their prescriptions had been signed by the GP and checking if their prescriptions had been sent to the pharmacy.  

A female pharmacist dispenses medicine from a community pharmacy

With such demand on primary care, I felt it was important to promote and increase the use of the digital channels that support our patients to order their prescriptions, as an alternative to more traditional routes such as phone calls, face to face contact, postage and online ordering through the practice website.  

I read about the NHS App and its repeat prescription functionality, which allows patients to order their repeat prescriptions quickly and easily on their device. I was interested how this could benefit me, my colleagues and patients. 

In addition to ordering repeat prescriptions, patients can also view and change their nominated pharmacy using the app. This feature was introduced at the start of the pandemic so that people could conveniently pick up their prescription from their chosen pharmacy rather than going into their GP surgery.  

Together, these features offer simple and convenient digital option for patients accessing primary care services.  

Promoting the NHS App’s repeat prescription functionality

I quickly discovered some really useful guidance about the NHS App on the NHS Digital website, including guidance on how to set up a patient and make use of features like repeat prescriptions, a toolkit of materials to help us tell our patients about the app, and other general training and instructions.  

From there I met with the practice IT manager to create an NHS App webpage for our PCN website.  

Plenty of patients were unaware that you can request repeat prescriptions on the app. 

We used opportunities like our local COVID-19 vaccination site to promote the NHS App, directing people to the information on our PCN website, and telling them about key features like the NHS COVID Pass. As a pharmacist, I was particularly keen to promote the repeat prescription functionality. Plenty of patients were unaware that you can request repeat prescriptions on the app. As patients waited for their vaccinations, we showed them how the app worked and how they could request their repeat prescriptions. This gave patients the confidence that their repeat prescription was automatically sent to their practice workflow and to their GP.  

The benefit to patients, pharmacy colleagues and general practice

Patients told us that it was a real benefit to order their repeat prescriptions using the NHS App, rather than relying on postage or calling into their surgery, which are more time-consuming tasks.  

For me and my pharmacy colleagues, the benefit is that patients can take more control of ordering their repeat medication. This supports their compliance and concordance in taking their repeat medications and reduces medication wastage. The pharmacy team’s time was freed up to focus on more critical jobs in pharmacy, such as medication reviews and medicines reconciliation (the process of checking you have the right medicines) from their hospital discharge letter.   

For people working in general practice, this digital route helps to alleviate the demand and access issues they’re currently facing. Practice staff spend less time on the phone or manually processing repeat prescriptions via the post box and online form requests, which frees up their time and their phone lines for other patients. 

Growing awareness and usage of the repeat prescriptions feature

The team and I were keen to make the most of this NHS App feature, and spread the news to our patients, so we employed a prescription administration officer to support this and help patients sign up to the app.  

The NHS App dashboard shows the growth in app’s usage in my area over the past 3 years. We now have over 28,000 registrations from a PCN list of approximately 55,000 patients. This is around 60% of GP patients aged 13 and older registered. This growth was supported by our efforts to promote the app and boosted by the introduction of the NHS COVID Pass. 

I’m really proud of the work my colleagues have done at our PCN to improve registrations and usage of the NHS App, particularly for repeat prescriptions.

For repeat prescriptions, the NHS App dashboard shows how we now have a steady rate of repeat prescription requests made via the app - approximately 400 to 450 a week over the last 6 months. 

I’m really proud of the work my colleagues have done at our PCN to improve registrations and usage of the NHS App, particularly for repeat prescriptions. Right now, we are in the process of creating stickers and banners to further promote the app for this year’s flu and COVID-19 vaccinations campaign.  

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Last edited: 24 October 2022 9:04 am