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Electronic prescriptions for controlled drugs rolled out across GP practices

GP practices will have a ‘reduced administrative burden’ now that controlled drugs can be dispensed via the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), NHS Digital has announced as it begins rolling out the scheme.

Following successful trials across 64 GP practices in England since October last year, practices will now be able to prescribe almost all Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs via EPS.

A paper prescription will still be needed for oral liquid methadone due to its packaged dose endorsement, NHS Digital said.

NHS Digital said one of the benefits will be a ‘reduced administrative burden on both GP practices and pharmacy staff’ as patients will no longer have split prescriptions.

It added: ‘Electronic records inform pharmacists, supporting them to safely and effectively dispense the right drugs for patients.’

Sending prescriptions electronically to nominated pharmacies is also more secure and will increase patient safety, according to NHS Digital.

Dr Vishen Ramkisson, senior clinical lead for digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: ‘This will make a particular difference to those who need controlled drugs the most, such as those nearing end-of-life who use this medication to manage pain and control unpleasant symptoms.

‘More efficient processes and fewer visits to drop-off paper prescriptions will help make sure these patients can be more comfortable. It will mean a better experience for patients and more efficient services for dispensers and prescribers.’

He added that he was ‘confident’ about rolling out the process nationally after the pilot’s ‘excellent results’.

Dr John Hampson, GP at Tottingham Medical Practice in Bury and clinical lead for IT at Bury CCG, said: ‘I took part in the original EPS pilot and the introduction of controlled drugs has always been at the top of my list of improvements.

‘This will really improve our prescribing process, making it more secure and much more efficient, not only for us but for our patients as well.

‘We’ll have far fewer prescriptions split between paper and electronic which will make life easier for patients as they’ll be able to have everything sent electronically to their pharmacy.’

NHS Digital advised GPs and pharmacists to inform affected patients they will no longer receive separate paper prescriptions and to give those not previously signed up the opportunity to opt in to EPS.