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Practices must get ‘urgent’ funding for IT to respond to coronavirus, says NAPC

by Awil Mohamoud
20 March 2020

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GP practices require ‘urgent’ investment in their IT so they can still work from home and get patients their prescriptions amid the Covid-19 outbreak, the National Association of Primary Care has said.

The body has called for ‘emergency funding’ to accelerate the availability of remote access, which gives GPs continued access to important patient information.

One GP, who was self-isolating last week, told Management in Practice that he was forced to share documents with staff via fax because his practice lacked remote access.

It also urged investment so practices can buy software that shares patient records with independent pharmacy prescribers. This would allow those pharmacies to write and amend prescriptions without the patient needing to visit a GP surgery.

The NAPC further recommended that all GP practices that haven’t already switch to electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) as soon as possible, to let patients collect their repeat prescriptions directly from pharmacies for a year with one approval signature. 

Wessex Academic Health Science Network research shows that switching to eRD can save each GP practice 45 minutes of workload a day.

Clare Howard, Wessex AHSN clinical lead, highlighted that switching to eRD has two benefits. Firstly, it saves GPs from constantly filling out repeat prescriptions for certain patients, which means they can focus their time on providing care. 

Secondly, it helps community pharmacies, ‘which are under a huge strain now that general practices have closed their doors. All of those patients are going to the pharmacies,’ she said.

‘With this system, if you manage it well, you can text the patient and say your prescription will be ready at a certain day and time.

‘Obviously, that takes some setting up. You can’t make that happen tomorrow when GP practices are under the cosh, as they are. But if practices and pharmacies work together, they can quite quickly deploy this system over the next few weeks.’