INPS has rolled out the Electronic Prescription Service Release 2 to 125 practices and aims to have it in up to 400 practices by the end of the year.

NHS Connecting for Health figures reveal only 198 practices across the country have EPS R2.

Primary care trusts must apply for Secretary of State directions to roll out the service, which allows patients to nominate a pharmacy and have their prescription sent to it electronically.  

In early 2011, the Department of Health stopped any more PCTs from applying because of delays to the roll-out, which it blamed on slow progress from system suppliers.

However, the DH recently confirmed to EHI Primary Care that it is looking at re-establishing the process.

In October last year, INPS had 44 GP practices using EPS R2 and uptake has accelerated to reach 125 this month.

INPS said the projection based on current rates of demand is to have EPS R2 in between 350 and 400 practices by the end of 2012.

INPS said in a statement that EPS R2 is of particular value for patients with multiple medications, as these are often collected out of synchronisation with each other, which is time-consuming for practices to process.

The new system allows a ‘standing order’ for repeats to be set up with prescriptions sent electronically, and automatically, to a pharmacy several days before the patient is due to collect.

GPs can ‘bulk sign’ prescriptions electronically, but also cancel a medication instantly.

Dr Tony Kaye, who uses EPS R2 at his practice in Trafford, Greater Manchester, said he believed that being able to manage prescriptions online could ultimately save 50% of practice time spent on repeat prescriptions.

“It is entirely appropriate in the 21st century that we should have an electronic prescription service and get away from scrappy bits of paper that get lost, misread, and take up a huge amount of time in the healthcare system.

"It’s better for the patient, the pharmacist and for GPs,” he said. "GPs should be prepared to put considerable effort into reviewing business processes around repeat prescribing prior to going live with EPS to make it work best."

Eighty three PCTs have still to apply for authorisation to let EPS R2 go ahead. A DH spokesperson told EHI PC this month that it is aware of increased interest from the NHS in re-establishing the process.

“We are working with stakeholders and the NHS to understand their views on EPS R2 before a decision can be made,” the spokesperson said.

“We are working with PCTs that have already implemented the service to gather key learning’s and ensure these are applied to future deployments.”

All GP clinical systems suppliers except iSoft now have approval for roll out of EPS R2.