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GPs working for Covid hotline can now prescribe using EPS

GPs working for the Covid-19 telephone hotline can now prescribe drugs to patients using the electronic prescription service (EPS), according to an NHS primary care bulletin.

The scope of prescribing is only for acute prescriptions, the bulletin said, and may also include controlled drugs where clinically appropriate.

In the event of a query regarding a prescription, pharmacists will be able to use the contact details on the EPS slip to contact the prescriber.

The change to the Covid clinical assessment service (CCAS) has been made in the hope that through the hotline, a GP will be able to complete an episode of care, NHS England’s bulletin said.

The news comes as Pulse reported last week that GPs working for the CCAS had been asked to carry out extra tasks, including prescribing and handling non-Covid cases, without any increase to pay and without concern for the increased liability.

Although NHS England refuted this, the GPs told Pulse they felt the CCAS was moving towards a general assessment service.

NHS England’s latest primary care bulletin also announced that the fourth phase of EPS, which allows prescribers to use the service for patients who do not have a nominated pharmacy, will be rolled out to all practices that use SystmOne and EMIS between 7 and 11 September.

According to NHS Digital figures, 54% of practices are already using Phase 4 of the service.

NHS England said GPs and pharmacies should still encourage patients to nominate a pharmacy, as this is ‘still the preferred and most efficient option, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic’.

The bulletin added that the advancement of EPS will reduce paperwork, as healthcare professionals will no longer need to hand-sign prescriptions and deal with any prescriptions that get lost. Instead, GP practices and pharmacies will now be able to track the status of prescriptions using the EPS Prescription Tracker.

Back in July, Pulse’s sister title the Pharmacist reported that more pharmacies were dispensing medication through the EPS during Covid-19, with 86% of prescriptions processed digitally in England during April, in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis.