09 October 2017
The transformative electronic prescription service (EPS) has managed to save the NHS £130 million over three years.
By allowing GP surgeries to send prescriptions directly to pharmacies, the EPS system, which has been developed by NHS Digital, has helped to save patients time and money when collecting their medications.
An audit of patients using the system found that 72 per cent said their medicines were ready and waiting for them when they arrived at their pharmacy, with the average prescription collection around 20 minutes quicker under the EPS system.
Over the past three years the system has saved patients almost £75 million and has meant patients need to make fewer return trips to pharmacies as a result of their medications being out of stock.
The time savings that EPS offers the average GP practice, allows staff to have more time to care for patients, particularly during the winter months when there is more demand for their services.
Additionally with more people falling ill over the winter period, EPS can help patients get their medication quickly and reduce the need for pharmacists to ring the GP about prescription queries.
The biggest savings were recorded by prescribers who saved around £327 million between 2013 and 2016, while dispensers saved nearly £60 million.
GP practices on average also saved an hour and 20 minutes each day by signing electronic repeat prescriptions compared to paper versions and an average of an hour and 13 minute a day by producing electronic repeat prescriptions compared to paper ones.
Other time savings for prescribers include:
- practices save an average of 43 minutes per day by not having to locate paper prescriptions within the practice
- practices save an average of 31 minutes every day by not having to re-print lost paper prescriptions
- practice staff save an average of 39 minutes every day by not having to wait for GPs to sign urgent paper prescriptions
- practices save an average of 27 minutes every day by cancelling prescriptions electronically versus paper
Pharmacists reported on average they were saving around 54 minutes a day as result of faster dispensing under EPS and 43 minutes a day as a result of fewer trips to GP practices to collect paper prescription forms.
Over time savings for dispensers include:
- dispensing administrative staff reported that they are saving an average of 79 minutes every day as a result of faster dispensing
- it takes 11.8 seconds less to enter details/demographics per item on EPS prescriptions rather than paper
- it takes 7.3 seconds less per item to produce a prescription label from an EPS script than from a paper prescription
The benefits for individual prescribers and dispensers can be calculated using the NHS Digital benefits estimator.
Luvjit Kandula, Chief Officer of Leicestershire and Rutland Local Pharmaceutical Committee 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."
Denise Duffy, a patient from Sunderland, said signing up to the Electronic Prescription Service has meant she and her husband have been able cut down on the amount of time they are waiting in pharmacies.
She said: "My husband and I are on repeat prescriptions. The pharmacist gets the prescription from the doctor's and it's ready for us when we come here.
"When it is done via EPS, you come to the pharmacy and your prescription is there ready for you to pick up and you're away.
"It's really good and it cuts down on all those queues and waiting times. I'd recommend EPS to everyone."