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General practice expands use of electronic prescription service during Covid-19

by Awil Mohamoud
8 July 2020

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More GP practices are using the Electronic Prescription Service during Covid-19, with 86% of prescriptions processed digitally in England during April, in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest NHS Digital figures. 

This is an increase of more than 10% since February and almost 20% year-on-year. 

More than half (54%) of GP practices are using Phase 4 of EPS, which rolled out in November 2019, and allows patients to use the service without a nominated pharmacy and prescriptions to be downloaded using the unique prescription ID. 

In April, the use of the service expanded into GP Access/virtual hubs, walk-in centres and out of hours settings, which has contributed to the increased figures, according to NHS Digital.

The EPS system has been useful during the coronavirus pandemic, as it ‘helps patients and staff practice social distancing by reducing contacts,’ said NHS Digital associate director of live services, Sam Robinson.

The national roll-out of Phase 4 of EPS could save the NHS £300 million over three years by reducing paper usage and saving time, according to NHS Digital. 

The public body has encouraged GP practices to use electronic repeat dispensing (eRD), so patients can receive a batch of prescriptions at regular intervals, rather than having to return to their practice each time. 

The need for patients to individually consent to being moved to eRD has been temporarily suspended during the coronavirus response.


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