The use of EPS during the COVID-19 pandemic
The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) sends electronic prescriptions from GP surgeries to pharmacies, and can enable reduced footfall in both GP surgeries and pharmacies. From November 2019, the country entered phase 4 of the EPS rollout, allowing doctors to prescribe electronically even if the patient did not have a nominated pharmacy. Around 60% of GP practices now have this capability as of August. This means patients now only require a paper prescription when the medicine requested is not listed in the Dictionary of Medicines and Devices (DM+D) or when they request a paper form themselves.
Phase 4 has continued the long-term increase in the use of EPS, but the growth in use has been particularly marked in recent months. As GP practices make more use of telephone consultations many patients can receive a prescription without a trip to the surgery to collect a paper form in person. Each month since January has seen a record level of prescribing through EPS, rising from 72.6% of all prescribing in January to 86.8% in May.
Use of Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) has also increased and now accounts for 12.6% of all prescribing, up from 10.0% in May 2019.
Use of electronic prescribing and electronic repeat dispensing has also increased by other types of prescriber in recent months:
- In May 2020 2.8% of all prescription items originated from pharmacists using EPS, up from 1.6% in May 2019
- The corresponding figures for nurses was 2.3% in May 2020 up from 1.2% in May 2019
We have also seen the first prescriptions coming through from pilot hospital sites beginning to use the EPS system as hospitals move to reduce footfall and infection risks and offer more choice to patients in how they collect medication.
We have recently deployed additional content into the EPS and eRD Utilisation Dashboard to help you identify practices within your CCG or PCN that are underutilising electronic dispensing including identifying practices with no eRD use. We also have the EPS Medicines Dashboard in the sandbox area which gives further details on types of medicines dispensed and weekly data on the number of EPS prescriptions by practice to help you to manage EPS use in your area.