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NHS England extends temporary suspension of patient consent for electronic repeat dispensing

by Rachel Carter
2 October 2020

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The temporary suspension of the requirement for practices to gain consent to transfer a patient to electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) has been extended until March 2021. 

The suspension was introduced in June this year in response to the pandemic and allows practices to transfer any patient deemed clinically suitable to electronic repeat dispensing, where they are already receiving electronic prescriptions.

In a letter to practices (30 September) detailing changes to the GP contract, NHS England said the provision would continue for GP practices until 31 March 2021 ‘at the earliest’.

‘Use of eRD has many benefits for patients, practices and wider systems and this temporary provision aims to make it easier for practices to transfer patients to eRD in defined circumstances, where this is clinically appropriate,’ the letter said.

In a primary care bulletin (1 October), NHS England said that many practices ‘have increased their utilisation of eRD, with the average weekly usage increasing by 400,000 items since the start of the pandemic, but added that there were still ‘further opportunities’.

Practices can request an up-to-date list of their registered patients that the NHS Business Services Authority has identified as potentially being suitable for eRD, the bulletin said.

Appointment slots for NHS 111

NHS England’s letter also confirmed that the temporary increase in appointment slots that practices must make available for direct booking by NHS 111 – of one slot per 500 patients per day – has been extended until the end of March next year.

‘This is because they remain necessary to support phase three of the NHS response [to Covid], in particular the important role NHS 111 is playing in reducing the face-to-face transmission risk for patients and NHS staff,’ the letter said.

Practices should continue to clinically assess patients remotely and arrange their ongoing management, it added, as ‘this ensures that only those who need further care are presenting to services, and they are managed as appropriate for their clinical condition’.

NHS England said that practices should make ‘sufficient slots’ available for NHS 111 to refer into and should assess the use of the slots each day and adjust the number to meet demand.

This could result in the number of slots being ‘fewer than one in 500’, the letter added.

The suspension of the requirement for practices to report to commissioners about the Friends and Family Test returns has also been extended.