GP stock photo- Copyright free

How one piece of code saved the NHS over 90,000 hours of GP time

Work on a national prescribing data set has allowed the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) to respond quickly to COVID-19 and help GPs regain precious time back.  

The NHSBSA has spent the last five years building a data ecosystem to improve many services it provides to the public.

A massive amount of NHS data is pulled together including prescriptions data (45 million prescription forms are handled each month), drugs data and organisation data. Business logic and cleansing rules are then applied, so that the information is better able to meet the reporting and analysis needs of its users. 

This data is then used by the NHS, Government, general public, academia and the private sector including pharmaceutical companies.

It made a big difference to patients and GPs during the pandemic, by reducing footfall in GP surgeries and saving time. For instance, Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) allowed GPs to give up to 12 months of prescriptions to suitable patients in one go. However, identifying suitable patients by using the systems GPs already had was time-consuming.  

So NHSBSA worked with specialists at Wessex Academic Health Science Network and the wider Academic Health Science Network to identify patient criteria. NHSBSA is now able to share a full list of patients who are suitable for eRD with every single GP practice in England on request, using the prescribing data it has.  

Graham Mitchell, Head of Provider Assurance at the NHSBSA said: “This has been a game changer and allowed GP practices to engage quickly with these patients, carry out clinical reviews, and introduce them to eRD. 

“Our work has really paid off, resulting in 23 million extra eRD prescription items being issued from March 2020 to February 2021.” 

Andy Mason, Data Warehouse and BI Manager at the NHSBSA said: “NHSBSA has put years of expertise and effort into creating the prescribing base data. It was this hard work that created a data set which allowed us to act quickly in response to COVID-19. 

“We are committed to using and sharing data appropriately and with the proper permissions in place.

“Looking after your data, understanding what data you have, how it should be stored, how it should be modelled, and how to unlock the power it possesses is so important for all organisations, but especially for those in healthcare. 

“Aside from the fantastic people that work in the health and care sector, the data we hold is probably our biggest asset and one we need to protect, nurture, and leverage to the benefit of everyone.” 

To find out more about Electronic Repeat Dispensing go to: Electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) | NHSBSA



Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen

Senior Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority

Notes to editors

It has previously been measured that each item moved to eRD saves 15.61 seconds within a GP practice. Based on this, it is estimated that this increase in eRD prescribing has saved up to 996,000 hours within GP practices that can be reinvested in the care of patients.  

NHSBSA’s work has enabled GPs to access NHS numbers of patients registered at their practice who might be suitable for eRD; eRD support specific to their practice; eRD best practice guides and templates to communicate the benefits of eRD to patients.  

Key Benefits for Prescribers  

  • The number of visits to the practice or phone calls by patients requesting and collecting repeat prescriptions is reduced along with the work associated with paper repeat prescribing  
  • Less time is spent processing, re-authorising, and signing repeat prescriptions 
  • A reduction in the number of patients requesting regular medication from out of hours services  
  • The risk of a batch of prescriptions getting lost is reduced and an audit trail record is provided including the reason for prescription cancellation. 

 Key Benefits for Patients  

  • The patient or carer will not need to request and then collect a paper prescription from the prescribing site 
  • Patient receives more frequent medication reviews as the dispenser is obliged to review the medication at each issue of the electronic repeat dispensing prescription 
  • There are fewer visits to the dispensing site for out-of-stock items and items owed. 

NHSBSA only shares aggregated data or non-identifiable data with most audiences and only shares identifiable data with those that are entitled to receive it, such as GPs providing care to those patients.