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Prescriptions to be entirely digitised across England

The Primary Care Minister Jo Churchill has announced that all NHS prescriptions will be digitised in an effort to help patients acquire their medicines more efficiently.

The electronic prescription service has been tested in a trial involving 60 GP surgeries and hundreds of nearby pharmacies. According to the government, nearby 70 per cent of all prescriptions are already being issued and dispensed through the system with positive feedback from GPs and pharmacies.

The service is due to be rolled out across all of England next month; once the final stage of the rollout has been completed, almost all prescriptions will be sent electronically. Patients using the service will be given a unique prescription barcode for their medicines, which they can take to any pharmacy to retrieve details of their medication from the secure NHS database.

“Digitising the entire prescription service is a key part of keeping up the drive to make the NHS fit for the 21st century,” said Churchill. “This will free up vital time for GPs and allow pharmacists to spend more time with their patients, and save millions of pounds a year.”

“It’s another important step towards eventually making all prescriptions paperless. We are continuing to improve technology across the NHS, which will ultimately improve care for patients.”

According to a government statement which characterised the switchover as a “huge milestone”, the service will improve security, reduce prescribing errors, and improve efficiency across the NHS by eliminating the need for patients to pick up prescriptions from their GP, allowing doctors and other healthcare professionals to digitally ‘sign’ and cancel prescriptions, and reducing the volume of prescriptions requiring storage. The government claims that these changes will save the NHS £300m through increased efficiencies.

Dr Ian Lowry, director of digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, commented: “Every prescription that is sent electronically saves money for the NHS by increasing efficiency. The system is also safer and more secure, as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has demonstrated considerable enthusiasm about digitising NHS services – through some simple policy proposals like replacing physical letters with emails or by allowing patients to book GP appointments via an app – and incorporating emerging technologies like AI into public healthcare.

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