A major step towards electronic prescribing for out-of-hours (OOH) doctors in England has been taken with the launch of new software supporting online prescribing by Adastra Software Ltd.

Adastra, the provider of GP out-of-hours software to 80% of GP co-operatives, has incorporated e-prescribing tools into version three of its ‘OnLine Clinician’ software. Stockport and Nottingham GP Co-operatives have been the first to go live with the beta version of the prescribing upgrade.

For the first time out-of-hours doctors have access to a system which allows them to electronically record action taken during out-of-hours consultations and automatically print prescriptions. The programme uses the Multilex Drug Data File supplied by First DataBank, already used as the source of prescribing data in the majority of GP practice systems.

Doctors can now prescribe from the full British National Formulary (BNF) or from a user-definable out-of-hours’ formulary. Patient details are automatically completed along with the prescribing or supplying doctor’s details, and the system will warn of contraindications, precautions, warnings, side effects and interactions relevant to that patient and prescription.

Wythenshawe GP Dr Claire Hughes, was one of the first doctors to use the new prescribing tools while on an evening session with the Stockport GP Co-operative. She commented: “I use the In Practice Vision system at my practice but I am not confident in using computers normally. I found the system extremely easy to learn, it just took five minutes training.”

Dr Hughes added that she was impressed by the speed of the new system: “Surprisingly I find it quicker to use the new On Line Clinician facility on the computer than to write the information down on paper.”

Adastra has worked closely with the Department of Health (DoH) and the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA) to build in all the new requirements of the DoH’s 2000 Out-of-Hours Review – The Carson Report. One of the review’s key recommendations (recommendation 19) states that patients, when clinically needed, should receive the full course of treatment at the same time and place as the consultation.

Alex Yeates, Adastra’s medical director, commented "This is a major advance in safety for prescribing out-of-hours. The stock control functionality built into the system also means that all out-of-hours providers can now comply fully with Recommendation 19 of the Out-of-Hours Review.”

Final development and national roll-out of the new out-of-hours prescribing system upgrade awaits publication of the Department’s National Formulary.