The use of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) in selected integrated urgent care settings is being piloted across London.
The service, which has been rolling out to GP practices since 2009, will allow patients seeking care out of hours or urgent care to have their prescriptions sent directly to a pharmacy of their choice, rather than relying on paper ones.
Integrated urgent care services includes NHS 111, GP out of hours services, clinical assessment services (CAS), walk-in centres, minor injuries units and urgent care centres.
As part of the EPS, patients can choose to have their prescriptions dispensed at any suitable community pharmacy.
It is hoped this will free up time for doctors and other healthcare workers issuing prescriptions and for pharmacists dispensing prescriptions, meaning more time for patient care.
Other benefits include increased efficiency of prescription processing, improved patient experience and a freeing up of more face-to-face consultation time.
Increasing pressures on integrated urgent care services prompted NHS England to ask NHS Digital to work with integrated urgent care system suppliers and run a pilot with EPS.
The pilot involved several prescribers in different integrated urgent care settings in London and has been running since December.
Following a review in the new year, NHS Digital is looking to roll out the service across all integrated urgent care settings in England.
“This is an important development which will bring significant benefit to patients in integrated urgent care, building on the time and money that EPS has already saved across primary care,” said Richard Ashcroft, programme director for digital medicines at NHS Digital.
“Rolling this additional service out will relieve some of the pressures faced by out-of-hours services such as 111, particularly during winter months, and will improve the experience for patients.”
In a separate story, it was reported in September that Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust became the first NHS trust to begin implementation of an open source, open standards-based electronic prescribing system.
The organisation plans to start using the system – the first of its kind – from June 2018.