Wales’ Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio has had its first annual review into the progress of the ambitious digital medicines plan for the country.

The portfolio was originally created by the Welsh government in April 2022, following an independent review of prescribing. It set out how digital ways of working will transform the experience for patients and healthcare professionals. As a result of replacing paper-based processes across NHS Wales with digital solutions, care will be safer and processes more efficient.

The annual review tracked some of the key milestones reached and the progress the portfolio has made into the four national programmes and projects at its heart.

November 2023 saw the first electronic prescription in Wales sent from Lakeside Medical Centre to Wellington Road Pharmacy in Rhyl. The electronic prescription service is now in its detailed testing phase at the practice, with it set to be rolled out across the country early this year.

In addition, changes have been made in the General Medical Services Contract which now allows GPs to authorise prescriptions digitally.

Also supporting the implementation of an electronic prescription service, the Primary Care EPS Programme Board approved cross-border community pharmacy nomination, paving the way for technical requirements to be built to allow Wales-based patients to have prescriptions dispensed in England and vice versa.

Reviewing progress

Progress was also made in the plan’s ambition to deliver electronic prescribing and medicines administration (ePMA) in every ward, in every hospital in Wales; the development of a shared medicines record; and medicines functionality in the NHS Wales app.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board are both completing the procurement of the ePMA in early 2024, with all other health boards and Velindre University NHS Trust procuring by spring 202.

The first ever Shared Medicines Record in Wales is set to be operational within the National Data Resource by the end of March 2024. This year will also see the NHS Wales App be used by patients to nominate a preferred pharmacy for digital GP prescriptions and dispending.

Digital Medicines Transformation Portfolio senior responsible owner Professor Hamish Laing said: “Medicines are a vitally important part of healthcare, at some point touching the lives of nearly every person living and working in Wales. Yet the way we manage medicines, largely using paper processes, has not changed significantly since the birth of the NHS in 1948…

“The introduction of a fully digitised system will reduce medication errors; extensive and reliable information will be available on medication usage and effectiveness, and for the first time a patient’s full medication record will be available wherever they receive care.”