NHS will scrap paper prescriptions next month in bid to save £300m

NHS will scrap paper prescriptions next month in bid to save £300m over two years

  • November 18, GP practices around country will switch to electronic prescribing
  • Government believes up to £300m could be saved from NHS budgets by 2021
  • Medication details will now be sent directly from doctors to a local pharmacy

Paper prescriptions will become a thing of a past next month under an NHS plan to save £300million over two years.

From November 18, all GP practices around the country will switch to electronic prescribing – meaning patients will no longer have to hand in a physical copy of their prescription to chemists.

Instead, medication details will be sent directly from doctors to a local pharmacy nominated by the patient where it can be collected after the patient gives their name and date of birth. 

By scrapping pen and paper prescriptions, the Government believes up to £300million could be saved from NHS budgets by 2021.

Patients who want a paper prescription can still request one, but under the new scheme all prescriptions will be printed with a unique barcode rather than a GP signature.

From November 18, the NHS will switch to electronic prescribing – meaning patients will no longer have to hand in a physical copy of their prescription to chemists (file)

This means they can walk into any pharmacy in the country where the barcode can be scanned by a pharmacist to download details of the medication. 

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) also means patients will no longer have to visit their GP to get a repeat prescription as drugs can be prescribed for up to a year using an electronic signature.

Health Minister, Jo Churchill said: ‘Digitising the entire prescription service is a key part of keeping up the drive to make the NHS fit for the 21st century.

‘This will free up vital time for GPs and allow pharmacists to spend more time with their patients, and save millions of pounds a year.

‘It’s another important step towards eventually making all prescriptions paperless. We are continuing to improve technology across the NHS which will ultimately improve care for patients.’

One MILLION people paid too much for NHS prescriptions last year

More than a million people could have saved money on their prescriptions last year by buying a ‘season ticket’.

Research has found 1,042,098 people in England paid the full price for more than 12 prescriptions, spending more than the cost of a prescription prepayment certificate.

A prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) is essentially a season pass which, for a one-off fee of £104, covers the cost of all prescriptions for a year.

Patients without a PPC or an exemption for reasons such as pregnancy, a low income or a long-term illness have to pay the full £9 for each prescription.

An investigation by the personal finance website Money Saving Expert found more than a million people were wasting money paying the full price.

‘These figures show that an increasing number of patients are paying more than they need to for medicine and other items prescribed on the NHS,’ said Steve Nowottny, the site’s news editor.

‘And while in some cases that will be due to unexpected illness, in other cases there will be people who do expect to need 12 or more prescriptions who are simply overpaying unnecessarily.’

Electronic prescriptions were introduced ten years ago and are already used by around 70 per cent of doctors surgeries in the UK. 

But in November, the system will be rolled out nationally. The vast majority of GP practices will fully switch to the new system by the end of the year, with the final rollout complete by next summer.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Implementing technology in the best interests of patient care by getting the basics right first is a key part of the College’s future vision for general practice.

‘Electronic prescribing is an example of technology that works for GPs and our teams, our colleagues in pharmacies and our patients, and we are pleased to see the latest phase of the scheme being rolled out more widely.’

Under the electronic prescribing system, patients can get their medication in two ways. 

They can either nominate a pharmacy which will receive the details directly from their GP or they can receive a paper prescription with the digital barcode.

The medical information is held on a secure NHS database called NHS Spine and will allow a patient’s prescription to be accessed quickly by GPs and pharmacies.

Dr Ian Lowry, Director of Digital Medicines and Pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: ‘Every prescription that is sent electronically saves money for the NHS by increasing efficiency.

‘The system is also safer and more secure, as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online. This is a huge milestone to reach, and one which benefits patients, GPs, pharmacists and the NHS as a whole.’

Simon Dukes, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee Chief Executive, said: ‘We are very pleased to see the Electronic Prescription Service rolling out nationally so that even more patients can take advantage of this digital NHS service.

‘Pharmacies across England have been piloting electronic prescriptions for some time and they will benefit from the simpler and more secure processes that this final rollout will bring. Freeing up GPs’ vital time.’

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