City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has rolled out electronic prescribing throughout inpatient areas of the trust.

The project required the specification and development of a new module by US vendor, Meditech, which has been extensively anglicised for the UK, plus a programme of business change by clinical staff.

David Miller, business manager for pharmacy at City Hospitals Sunderland, commented:

“Achieving the ‘Holy Grail’ of electronic prescribing across our organisation, within such a short period, has required careful attention to the change process itself, and the people involved.”

He added that it was essential that that e-prescribing was seen as a corporate responsibility, and not just a pharmacy project, and must be led by an effective multidisciplinary team that includes medical, nursing, IT and pharmacy input.

Sue Martin, the nursing lead for e-prescribing said, "Electronic prescribing has freed up nursing time and improved the patient experience by making prescriptions more legible and available. It has also speeded up the discharge process. Patient safety is improved in that prescribing is more precise and guided. Prescribers can use stop dates so that treatments do not over-run; dose warnings assist prescribing and administration reports are available at the click of a button".

Medical staff at the trust also praised the improvements in working processes and safety. Consultant surgeon and trust medical director, Les Boobis, said: “The ability to prescribe or review medications from anywhere in the trust – even between theatre sessions – for patients is a very positive outcome to the process.

“Moving from manual drug charting has been both dynamic and rewarding. It has helped me see the many wider benefits of a computerised prescribing process. Patient safety and confidentiality are always prime concerns and EP has made working in the NHS a safer task.”

Dr Andrew Berrington, consultant microbiologist and chair of the trust drugs and therapeutics committee, said: "Electronic prescribing via an integrated hospital information system greatly improves our ability to tailor our results to individual circumstances.  

“A microbiologist releasing a positive culture result can first check the patient’s prescription to see whether they are receiving an appropriate antibiotic, or conversely whether the report requires modification to reflect that treatment.

“We also have the facility to search for prescriptions for particular agents in order to monitor prescribing patterns and promote good practice. Drugs of particular concern can be flagged with warning boxes, and in theory can be restricted to particular prescribers although we have not felt the need to do this. It’s a great advance”.

City Hospitals Sunderland has used Meditech’s system for over 13 years, and e-prescribing is the latest addition to a portfolio of integrated modules. These include a patient administration system, pharmacy, labs, radiology, order communications and results reporting, nursing, maternity, theatres and a range of additional clinical data collection screens through the Meditech departmental module.

The system, supplied by prime contractors, Filetek UK, is deployed at six NHS sites in England and two in Scotland. Three of the English sites have e-prescribing facilities.