EPS dispensing FAQs

Published on: 12th August 2014 | Updated on: 15th March 2022


EPS Main page
Dispensing in EPS main page
Legality and Scope
Retrieving Electronic Prescriptions
Tokens: Prescription & Dispensing
Supplementary Clinical Information
Medicines Assembly
Accuracy Check
Notification and Reimbursement Claim

Click on a heading below to reveal FAQs on that topic.

Legality and Scope

Q. Can a prescriber issue an FP10MDA Instalment Dispensing prescription electronically via the Electronic Prescription Service?
In England, only Schedule 2 Controlled Drugs plus Buprenorphine, Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone) and Diazepam can be prescribed in instalments on Form FP10MDA.
Schedule 2 and 3 Controlled Drugs may be dispensed when prescribed using the Electronic Prescription Service from 1 July 2015 (although technical amendments to prescribing and pharmacy systems are likely to delay the implementation of this change). However, there is currently no equivalent to FP10MDA in the electronic prescription service, so prescribers wanting supplies to be made in instalments will need to continue to use hard copy FP10MDA forms.

Q. Can a nurse prescriber working in a GP practice, issue prescriptions via the EPS Service?
A. Yes, all types of nurse prescriber (community practitioner nurse prescriber, independent nurse prescriber and supplementary nurse prescriber) linked to GP Practices can issue prescriptions via the Electronic Prescription Service as long as they have the correct roles and GP Practice locations registered on their smartcard. When an electronic prescription is received, the prescriber type will be indicated on screen.

Q. The prescriber has signed the token; does this make it a legal NHS prescription?
No. If the prescriber has signed the prescription token, it cannot be treated as a legal NHS prescription as the form is not approved for this use by the NHS. A contractor would be reimbursed for dispensing against the electronic prescription, not the token. To minimise the risk of a prescriber signing the token, the signature box on the token will be over-written by the prescribing system to state that the token should not be used as a prescription.

Q. How will a patient order their repeat prescriptions in future?
A. Arrangements for ordering repeat prescriptions are agreed locally, for example some practices currently accept repeat prescription requests by phone, email, fax or through online ordering systems, others require patients to submit a paper request. This will not change.

Where prescribers require patients to submit a written request for repeat medication, patients will be able to request a printed list of their repeat medication from a Release 2 enabled pharmacy. This information will be provided to pharmacies in the electronic prescription message received from the prescriber. There is some flexibility over how system suppliers will configure systems to generate this information, for example automatically for nominated prescriptions or on demand. The impact of this task on workload within pharmacies will be monitored closely during the initial implementation of Release 2 of the Service. To minimise the number of occasions that a patient has to order repeat prescriptions,  the NHS repeat dispensing arrangements are encourages.

The Department of Health information strategy – The power of information- set the target that by 2015, all general practices will be expected to make electronic ordering of repeat prescriptions available to patients.

Q. I have received an EPS Release 2 electronic prescription however when I try to dispense this, an alert is coming up in my system to indicate that there is “no dm+d mapping”. What does this mean and what should I do?
A. The NHS Dictionary of Medicines and Devices (dm+d) provides a unique code for each medicine and device and is the key to supporting interoperability between pharmacy and GP clinical systems. System suppliers use a variety of drug databases in their systems. Where a supplier has not adopted the NHS dm+d as their core database, they must ‘map’ the codes of the individual products on their database with the dm+d codes.

Where an electronic prescription has been received for an item but the individual pharmacy system supplier has not mapped that item on their drug database with the dm+d code, the system will flag that there is a problem dispensing the product (this alert is worded in different ways in different systems). If this occurs, it is important to contact the supplier’s helpdesk to report the problem. It may be necessary to request a paper prescription as an interim measure until the supplier can arrange for an update to their PMR system database.

It is essential that mapping is accurate. If whilst dispensing a prescription via the service, a pharmacist identifies an incorrect map, for example if the information printed on the token is different from prescribing information shown on the screen, the pharmacist should report it to their system supplier immediately. The incident should also be reported to the National Patient safety Agency (NPSA) using their online reporting form.

Retrieving EPS Scripts

Q. Does the barcode contain any patient sensitive information?
A. No. the barcode does not contain any personal information about the patient but does contain a unique reference number for the prescription. By scanning the barcode or manually inputting the prescription identifier, the electronic prescription message can be pulled down to the local pharmacy system. In Release 1, the prescription identifier code was 32 characters. In Release 2, the prescription identifier code will be 32 characters for non-nominated prescriptions and will be shortened to 18 characters for nominated prescriptions sent electronically. Release 1 systems will not be capable of scanning barcodes on Release 2 prescription/dispensing tokens or manually inputting the 18 character prescription ID to retrieve the electronic prescription.

Q. I am having problems scanning the barcoded forms that are being issued by a particular local prescriber. What should I do?
A. Pharmacies may experience problems scanning barcodes that have been poorly printed, for example if the prescriber’s printer toner is running out or if the prescriber is using the ‘economy setting’ on their printer. Pharmacy contractors should alert the prescriber to this.

Q. Will I continue to receive paper prescriptions as well as electronic prescriptions?
A. Yes. The mix of paper versus electronic prescriptions will vary greatly depending on the location of a pharmacy and patient preferences. Initially only patients who have nominated a dispensing site will be able to receive their prescriptions electronically. There will also be occasions where the prescriber cannot issue an electronic prescription, for example if the prescription is issued during a home visit and the prescriber does not have access to the service or where a particular product cannot be prescribed electronically.

Q. Can electronic prescriptions be post dated?
A. Yes. Prescribers are able to post date electronic prescriptions, however, the prescription will be held on the local prescribing system until the date on the prescription. It will not be available for the dispenser to retrieve in advance of the date on the prescription. Prescribers should consider if repeat dispensing would be more appropriate.


Q. The prescriber has signed the token; does this make it a legal NHS prescription?
No. If the prescriber has signed the prescription token, it cannot be treated as a legal NHS prescription as the form is not approved for this use by the NHS. A contractor would be reimbursed for dispensing against the electronic prescription, not the token. To minimise the risk of a prescriber signing the token, the signature box on the token will be over-written by the prescribing system to state that the token should not be used as a prescription.

Q. My local NHS England team has provided me with dispensing tokens. The form is coded FP10DT0407. I’ve noticed that Box H states ‘gets income support (IS)’ whereas the normal FP10s state ‘gets income support (IS) or income related employment and support allowance (ESA)’. How should a person claiming income related employment and support allowance’ (ESA) complete the back of the FP10DT0407 form?
A. The FP10DT0407 dispensing tokens were originally produced in 2007 and the reverse of the form was correct at that time. A new form was developed in June 2008 (FP10DT0608) to reflect changed to the exemption arrangements.

The old version of the dispensing token will remain in circulation until the forms are used up. People who are included in an award of income-related Employment and Support Allowance and who need to complete an exemption declaration on an old form should tick box H “*gets Income Support” to claim free prescriptions.

Q. Will I need a specific printer for printing tokens?
A. Your pharmacy system supplier will be able to provide guidance on hardware requirements. As a minimum a 600dpi mono laser printer is required. This must be able to handle the size and weight of the prescription token stationery. Dual bin printers are recommended.

Q. My pharmacy system is configured to automatically print tokens when a legal NHS electronic prescription is received; this is regardless of whether the token is required to collect the patient’s exemption declaration or not. What should I do with the waste tokens?
A. It is possible that some pharmacy systems will be configured to automatically print tokens for all nominated prescriptions, for example, so that the token can be used to support accuracy checking following the preparation of prescribed products. Tokens contain patient identifiable information so care should be taken in how they are disposed off, for example the waste paper should be shredded within the pharmacy. Ifthe token is handed to the patient, after dispensing, as a reference of what was prescribed, the patient should be reminded that they cannot take the token to another pharmacy to have it dispensed.

Q. Can a prescription/dispensing token be processed by a Release 1 system?
A. No. Release 1 dispensing systems will not be capable of scanning barcodes on Release 2 prescription/dispensing tokens.

Q. Can dispensing tokens be reprinted?
A. Yes. Dispensing tokens can be re-printed, for example if there was a problem with the printer whilst printing the initial copy. The re-print will be an exact copy of the original.

Dispensing Notifications and Reimbursement Claim

Q. I have received an electronic prescription but only two of the four items requested are in stock. Can I dispense the items in stock and push the electronic prescription back to the Spine for the patient to get the other two items dispensed at another EPS R2 enabled pharmacy?
A. No, it is not possible to split the dispensing of items on an electronic prescription form between different pharmacies. This is the same as the arrangements for paper prescriptions. If the patient requires all medicines urgently and is not willing to accept an owing note, an option is to return the electronic prescription to the Spine and provide the patient with a dispensing token so that their electronic prescription can be accessed at another EPS R2 enabled pharmacy.

Q. I have recently upgraded to EPS Release 2 and submitted a dispense notification message in error. Can this be recalled?
A. The EPS central infrastructure supports the recall of dispense notification messages as long as a reimbursement claim message has not been submitted. However, not all pharmacy system suppliers have built this functionality into local systems. If your system does not support recalling dispense notification messages, we would recommend making a development request to your supplier for this functionality to be added.

Q. I have received an electronic prescription from the prescriber and the dosage instructions are not clear, can I manually amend this so that the dispensing label carries the correct instructions?
A. Yes. Pharmacy system suppliers may design their systems differently but will have the flexibility to allow the dosage instructions to be amended and corrected as necessary by pharmacy staff.

Q. In EPS Release 2, will a prescriber be able to cancel a prescription that has already been dispensed by a pharmacist?
A. Release 2 of the Electronic Prescription Service will support the cancellation of electronic prescriptions.

It will not be possible for a prescription to be electronically cancelled by a prescriber, where it has the following status: ‘With Dispenser’, ‘With Dispenser – Active’, ‘Dispensed’ or ‘Claimed’. Where a prescription cannot be electronically cancelled, a prescriber can follow manual processes, as now, and call the pharmacist to explain that there is a problem with the prescription. To facilitate this, the prescribing system will provide information to the prescriber on which dispensing site has pulled down the prescription.

Q. In my EPS Release 1 enabled system, the system presents me with the quantity and unit of measure prescribed and asks me to confirm, amend or re-key this information. This is laborious. Will I continue to have to do this in Release 2?
A. No, pharmacists shouldn’t be required to continue to do this in Release 2. To resolve this problem, systems suppliers have been asked to comply with certain standards in the way the quantity of medication and units of measure are expressed in systems. The way systems express this information will be assessed as part of the common assurance process.

Q. I have pulled-down a nominated prescription but do not have the item in stock. The patient wishes to change their nomination settings anyway to a neighbouring pharmacy. If I push the prescription back to the spine and change the nomination settings – will my neighbouring pharmacy be able to access the electronic NHS prescription?
A. No, when the prescription is returned to the spine it will no longer be flagged as a nominated prescription therefore the prescription ID is required by the other pharmacy to pull the prescription down. A dispensing token should be printed for the patient to take to the other pharmacy.

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