NHS North East Essex is preparing patients for the go-live of Release 2 of the national Electronic Prescription Service.

Pharmacies have started to invite patients to nominate the pharmacy at which they would like to receive their prescription. NHS North East Essex expects to dispense its first electronic prescriptions from April 2010.

Pharmacies in its area have started handing out leaflets and asking patients to choose up to three places where they would like to collect their prescriptions, including one pharmacy, one dispensing appliance contractor and – in some circumstances – their dispensing GP practice.

Once EPS R2 rolls out, GPs will send prescriptions electronically to nominated pharmacies, from where patients will be able to pick them up. This should reduce the need for patients, particularly those on repeat prescriptions, to visit their GP surgery to obtain a paper prescription.

Yvonne Benstead, EPS project manager at NHS North East Essex, said: “The introduction of EPS will make life a lot easier for many people, particularly those on repeat prescriptions.

“If people don’t want to ‘nominate’ they can continue to pick up their prescription in the traditional way, and they can change from one system to the other if they find that more suitable.”

In July, Liptrots pharmacy and Calverley Medical Centre in Leeds became the first pharmacy and GP practice in England to use EPS R2.

They are using Cegedim’s Pharmacy Manager and TPP’s SystmOne, the first pharmacy and GP systems to be accredited for EPS R2, which are also in use in North East Essex.

Release 2, which was originally due to go live in October 2007, includes the nomination of pharmacies, electronic prescription signing and the ability for GPs to electronically cancel prescriptions.

A spokesperson for the PCT told E-health Insider Primary Care: “Release 2 will be part of a phased introduction because GPs across North East Essex have very different systems.

"We are in the very early stages at the moment. The earliest first electronic prescriptions are expected to be dispensed in April 2010 and we are hoping that by the end of 2010 the roll-out will be complete.”