Community pharmacists have been warned to take care when signing contracts for systems to support release two of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) as some pharmacies have been waiting more than two years for release one systems.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it had been contacted by pharmacists who had signed up for a release one system from one supplier, Ascribe. Despite signing contracts with Ascribe more than two years ago the pharmacists were still waiting for the supplier to achieve Connecting for Health (CfH) compliance status.

Latest information on the CfH website shows that seven commercially available pharmacy systems have achieved release one compliance with Ascribe yet to achieve technical accreditation.

Graham Beck, pharmacy business manager for Ascribe, said Ascribe was working closely with CfH in achieving release one compliance and working towards EPS release two.

He told EHI Primary Care: “The Ascribe Park System proved itself to be ‘technically capable’ of interaction with the N3 spine in 2007. Since then a number of clinical changes have been asked of us by the national programme which have created regrettable delays. The ETP software is in test with CfH and we expect accreditation to follow shortly.

“Some of our customers did commit to buy the ETP compliant system two years ago, and development of the software commenced as a result of this commitment. Once again, we expect ETP accreditation to follow shortly.”

So far no pharmacy or GP system suppliers have achieved technical accreditation for release two of EPS.

Lindsay McClure, head of information services at the PSNC, told EHI Primary Care: “Our advice is that if a pharmacy is signing up for release two that they should make sure there are appropriate break clauses in the contract if a supplier doesn’t achieve compliance within a reasonable timeframe.”

The PSNC said contractors who had signed up for a release one system which had yet to be delivered, and who are members of the National Pharmacy Association, could obtain legal advice from the NPA.

The initial implementation of release two of EPS was originally planned for October 2007 and in January CfH said it hoped initial implementation would begin in spring or summer 2008. CfH said the delay was due to system suppliers not being ready to test their systems in a live environment.

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