Following successful testing, NHS Digital is rolling out Schedule 2 and 3 Controlled Drugs (CDs) via the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS).
The functionality has been trialed across 64 GP practices across England, since pilots began in October last year.
GP practices will be able to send all Schedule 2 & 3 CDs, except oral liquid methadone, electronically via EPS1. Once a GP practice is able to send CDs via EPS, dispensers will no longer receive split prescriptions from them. This update means dispensers will see an increase these prescriptions electronically over the service, rather than in paper form2.
The benefits of prescribing controlled drugs through EPS are:
- all prescriptions sent electronically to their nominated pharmacy, meaning that there will be fewer patients who have both paper and electronic prescriptions
- reduced administrative burden on both GP practices and pharmacy staff
- electronic prescriptions are more secure and can’t be lost, misplaced or get into the hands of someone other than the patient
- electronic records inform pharmacists to support them to safely and effectively dispense the right drugs for patients
- patients who had chosen not to use EPS because they still had paper prescriptions for controlled drugs can now opt in
- patient safety is increased as errors are less likely
Dispensers should be prepared for the change and advise affected patients who already have a nomination, that their items can now be automatically sent via EPS to their nominated pharmacy, so they will not receive any more separate paper prescriptions. Those who were not previously nominated may want to consider setting one up now.
Dr Vishen Ramkisson, Senior Clinical Lead for Digital Medicines and Pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: “This will make a particular difference to those who need controlled drugs the most, such as those nearing end of life who use this medication to manage pain and control unpleasant symptoms. More efficient processes and fewer visits to drop-off paper prescriptions will help make sure these patients can be more comfortable. It will mean a better experience for patients and more efficient services for dispensers and prescribers.
“The pilot has completed with excellent results, making us confident to roll out the process nationally.”
Martin Bennett MBE, Chairman & Superintendent Pharmacist at Sheffield-based Associated Chemists (Wicker) Ltd, said: "Being able to receive prescriptions for controlled drugs electronically is a welcome improvement to the Electronic Prescription Service.
“It will speed up the process, reduce the potential of errors when prescriptions are hand written and make the dispensing of controlled drugs safer and more secure."
Dr John Hampson, GP at Tower Family Healthcare in Tottington, one of the first pilot sites and Clinical Lead for Information Technology at Bury CCG, said: “I took part in the original EPS pilot and the introduction of controlled drugs has always been at the top of my list of improvements.
“This will really improve our prescribing process, making it more secure and much more efficient, not only for us but for our patients as well.
“We’ll have far fewer prescriptions split between paper and electronic which will make life easier for patients as they’ll be able to have everything sent electronically to their pharmacy.”
Notes to editors
- A paper NHS FP10 (green) prescription will still need to be generated for oral liquid methadone, as dispensing systems are unable to endorse electronic prescriptions with a packaged dose endorsement.
- All dispensers can view the switch-on timings for GP practices in their area on the NHS Digital website here
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