The BMA UK GP Committee co-chair has called for urgent workload solutions after he had to sign a ‘record’ 220 paper prescriptions in just one day.
On the occasion, Dr Andrew Buist was one of two GPs left looking after 7,800 patients due to sickness and staff annual leave.
The Blairgowrie GP said doctors ‘have better things to do’ and that the Scottish Government must deliver on ‘promised’ electronic solutions with appropriate funding.
He told Pulse: ‘It’s a 19th century method of signing prescriptions which we should be moving on from and I know that the Government has been looking at how to do it. I know they were looking at it in 2004 and 19 years later we are still operating on paper.
‘We are inconveniencing patients and cutting down trees and using gallons of ink – and wasting clinicians’ time.
‘It’s not a safe system either as prescriptions can get lost. There needs to be more focus on that.
‘There is a working group working on it now and I have seen presentations that they have done, they look serious for once. The tech exists to do this, but there’s some questions on the funding.’
Dr Buist’s fellow GPC UK co-chair Dr Alan Stout, Northern Ireland GPC chair, tweeted in response that paper still having to be used by GPs represent ‘a huge waste of time and money’.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘We are working with National Services Scotland and the National Digital Service to fully digitalise the prescribing and dispensing routes for medicines through the Digital Prescribing and Dispensing Pathways Programme. This will support a paperless system, utilising advanced electronic signatures, across primary care, including between GP practises and pharmacies.
‘Electronic Transmission of Prescriptions (ETP) has been operating in Scotland since 2006 alongside paper prescriptions which are a legal requirement until advanced electronic signatures are established.’
Earlier this year, the BMA warned that general practice in Scotland is in ‘a sustainability crisis,’ with almost a quarter of a million more patients than 10 years ago and almost 90 fewer GP practices.
The research revealed that while the number of GP practices in Scotland is falling, the average number of patients per whole time equivalent GP has increased from 1,499 to 1,687.