Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has rolled out e-prescribing on two wards in a phased deployment which will cover the whole trust.

The mental health trust began to trial the Ascribe electronic prescribing and medicines management system in June last year and has taken a careful approach to the roll-out.

Steve Bazire, a consultant pharmacist at Norfolk and Suffolk, said that the first ward had been a “little tricky” and to ensure it worked, it was rolled out one patient at a time.

“It was one of those things where we could go on testing and tweaking things, but we wouldn’t know what was going on until we were live,” he said.

“We went live maybe a little sooner than we should have. We had a lot of network issues which we couldn’t have anticipated and operational issues we couldn’t have predicted.”

However, he added that once they had evaluated the lessons learned, the roll-out on the second ward, a few weeks ago, was much easier.

“The second ward has been a piece of cake. It took a while to get there, but once we did it went very smoothly. We went live on 14 January, so few weeks ago now,” Bazire explained.

“The first time, we went with one person at a time. The nursing staff said to get on with it so we did it all in one go on the second ward. We went live on the Tuesday and by the Saturday they didn’t need us [floor walkers] anymore. We were really pleased.”

The e-prescribing system is integrated with Ascribe’s electronic medicines management and pharmacy stock control robotic dispensing, which was already in use at the trust.

This means a prescription can be screened by a pharmacist and automatically supplied without the need for manual transcription.

The system is also integrated with the mental health trust’s other IT systems and allows for auditing and analysis of treatments to encourage best practice.

Bazire said that both medical staff and nursing staff had been very supportive of the roll-out.

“A few of them are still building their confidence on it, there are a lot of little things that we need to sort, but we’re learning as we go along,” he said.

“It’s not been easy and has involved a lot of work from everybody, but we have seen significant progress and are very positive.”

The trust will continue the roll-out next month.