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Phase 4 information for dispensers

In EPS Phase 4, a token (patients may refer to these as paper copies of their prescription) will be printed by the GP practice for all patients without an EPS nomination. This will be given to the patient or collected as part of a prescription collection service. Patients can take these tokens to any pharmacy in England.

Benefits for dispensers

The benefits for dispensers include:

  • most of your prescriptions will be processed electronically to reduce dual processing
  • one main process for prescriptions will lead to a more efficient, faster and secure service
  • end-of-month processing will be quicker due to fewer paper prescriptions
  • the risk of dispensing duplicate prescriptions will reduce as electronic prescriptions can’t be lost
  • it will be possible to track more prescriptions on the EPS Prescription Tracker

Dispensing a Phase 4 prescription

When a patient presents a Phase 4 token you should scan the unique barcode or enter the barcode number to retrieve the prescription. These prescriptions will not download automatically with your bulk EPS downloads. 

Phase 4 tokens are not signed by the prescriber as the prescriptions are signed electronically. The legal prescription is always the electronic prescription. You should scan the token to retrieve the prescription from the NHS Spine and ensure it is still valid. You should not dispense from the token alone.

Post-dated prescriptions will not be available to download from the NHS Spine until the date they become valid.


Endorsements written or printed onto any type of EPS token will not be processed by the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA).

As with all EPS prescriptions, endorsements need to be processed electronically using your pharmacy system.


There are some exceptions where Phase 4 cannot be used, such as items not in the dictionary of medicines and devices (dm+d) and Schedule 2 & 3 Controlled Drugs (in practices where this functionality has not yet been switched on in EPS).
Prescriptions for these items will be printed and hand-signed. 

Repeat prescribing and repeat dispensing

Repeat prescriptions that are requested manually will be issued in much the same way as they are now. Patients will receive a new token for each prescription.

For electronic repeat dispensing (eRD), also known as batch prescribing, patients will receive one repeat dispensing token that they will need to keep hold of and present each time they need their items dispensed. Patients may also speak to you about leaving this token with you if they would like you to dispense all the issues in the batch.

Patients presenting without a paper token

If a patient arrives without a token, you can use the patient’s NHS number to search the EPS Prescription Tracker. This will provide you with the Prescription ID which can be used to download the prescription manually. 

If the prescription is shown as ‘with dispenser’ on the EPS Prescription Tracker, follow these instructions.  

If the patient tells you they were not given a paper token by the GP practice, you may wish to contact the practice to ensure future patients are given their tokens. 

Existing paper prescriptions

All existing paper prescriptions that have not been dispensed will still be valid until their normal expiry date. These prescriptions do not need to be reissued electronically.

Token printing quality

The quality of printing on a Phase 4 token may prevent you from scanning and retrieving the prescription from the NHS Spine. To avoid delays in dispensing the patient’s prescription, you should use the 18-digit Prescription ID to download the prescription manually.

You may wish to contact the GP practice to find out if they can adjust their print settings for future tokens.

Download speeds

The time it takes for your system to download a Phase 4 prescription from the NHS Spine should be the same as when scanning Release 1 prescriptions. If download times are significantly different to those you experience with Release 1, it is important that you raise this with your system supplier.

Existing nominations

All 28 million existing EPS nominations will remain valid and further nominations for appropriate patients should continue to be set. You don’t need to do anything with existing nominations.

Reporting system issues

If you encounter any issues with your dispensing system during the Phase 4 pilot, these should be raised following your existing process for other EPS-related issues.

Dispenser support materials

Dispenser fact sheet  

Printable poster (dispensers that are most likely to receive a Phase 4 token during the pilot will be provided with posters. All dispensers will receive a printed poster ahead of national roll out)

Last edited: 13 November 2018 1:48 pm