The Electronic Prescription Service has dispensed nearly one billion items in the last 12 months, making it the default method for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions in primary care in England.

According to figures from NHS England, the number of electronic prescriptions sent to community pharmacies has almost doubled in the past five years. In 2021/22 the majority of prescriptions were issued electronically – 996 million or 95%. In comparison, in 2016/17 there were 532 million issues electronically, representing just over half of all prescriptions that year.

The Electronic Prescription Service allows clinicians to send prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy of the patient’s choosing. This makes the process of prescribing and dispensing medicines more efficient and convenient for patients and staff. Currently, less than one in 20 prescriptions is still paper-based.

The first electronic prescription was sent 18 years ago, from Ling House Medical Centre in Keighley, West Yorkshire. Dr Rabani, GP at the centre, said: “The Electronic Prescription Service for us in general practice really has been a game-changer. Gone are the days of spending our lunch breaks signing reams of repeat prescriptions by hand.

“In terms of patient safety, if we change or cancel a prescription we can amend it in the system instead of phoning the pharmacy and making sure the paper slip is destroyed. And it’s been useful for my out-of-hours practice as well. I can look in the system to see the opening hours and addresses of pharmacies to help decide which is the most convenient one for my patient to send their prescription to.”

As well as saving clinicians time, the service also has inbuilt safeguards to support safer prescribing.

Rahul Singal, chief pharmacy and medicines information officer, NHS England, said: “When you look at the number of transactions that are made via the service and how much it’s revolutionised practice in general practice and community pharmacy, we’d be pushing to think of another national system that’s had more success.”

NHS England is now focusing on bringing the Electronic Prescription Service to more care settings so even more clinicians and patients in the NHS can experience the benefits. The first secondary care provider in England to implement the system is Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

A total of 11,400 pharmacies are now signed up to use the electronic service, with Portsmouth the first area in the country to offer electronic prescriptions to all patients.