Plans to digitise NHS prescriptions will create efficiency savings of £300m a year by 2021, the government has claimed.
Following a series of trials, the Electronic Prescription Service is set to be expanded to every GP practice and pharmacy in England.
Announcing the plans on Saturday (19 October), primary care minister Jo Churchill said that the initiative would free up GPs and pharmacists to spend more time with patients.
Under the new scheme, patients will have two options for collecting prescriptions. If they have already agreed on a pharmacy, they can collect the prescriptions without needing a paper slip. Alternatively, they can opt for a paper prescription, featuring a barcode that enables them to make collections from any pharmacy.
NHS Digital’s medicines director, Ian Lowry, said that the system would boost efficiency and be more secure, “as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online”.
The chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard backed the plans. She said: “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.”
The initiative forms part of a wider initiative by the government to make the NHS paperless by 2020.