13-14 OCTOBER 2024

09 Aug 2023

Addiction unit launches electronic prescription service in national first

A north London NHS addictions unit has launched England’s first electronic prescription service (EPS) for addiction-related medication following a successful local trial.

By James Stent


The addictions service at the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL Addictions) announced the launch of its EPS today (August 1).

It claims to be the first addictions service in the country to launch an EPS, meaning that patients will no longer have to wait at the unit while their paper prescriptions are prepared.

At present, the unit will only use EPS for “green” single instalment prescriptions, it said. It added that “blue” multiple instalment prescriptions are not yet available nationally, and so are not yet offered under EPS.

Read more: EPS now 'default' as almost 1bn items dispensed electronically in 2021/22

It follows a successful trial of the service in 2022 at ARC Hounslow, an addictions service funded by Hounslow Council. Under the trial, team members said that EPS “helped to speed up” the prescription service, CNWL said. 

CNWL Addictions clinical director Dr Jeffrey Fehler said that the unit had been “very keen” on using electronic prescriptions. “I can’t think of a single disadvantage,” he said.

Dr Fehler said that patients who had been newly prescribed controlled drugs such as methadone or psychotropic medication such as olanzapine would now have their scripts sent electronically to their nominated pharmacy. 

Read more: Rollout of Welsh electronic prescription service could begin this summer

“By the time they arrive, their medication is ready for collection,” he said, adding that using EPS meant that misplaced prescriptions – “a common occurrence” – would become a thing of the past.

“We now can’t wait for NHS Digital to develop EPS functionality for blue prescriptions,” he said.


EPS now “default”

In February, NHS Digital announced that EPS was now the “default” method for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions in England, with “almost one billion” prescription items dispensed electronically in the preceding 12 months.

Read more: How electronic repeat dispensing was a 'saving grace' for one pharmacy

And in January, Wales’ health and social services minister Eluned Morgan said that the country’s EPS “could begin” in the summer of 2023.

In Wales, GPs can produce prescriptions digitally but have to print and sign hard copies to be fulfilled at the pharmacy.

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