Pilot of EPS Phase 4 approved

Published on: 29th July 2016 | Updated on: 15th March 2022

At the July 2016 meeting of Community Pharmacy England, a limited pilot of Phase 4 of the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) was approved.

EPS Phase 4 is the point at which electronic rather than paper prescriptions become the default. This is expected to be tested initially in a small number of pilot GP practices later – in 2017.

What is Phase 4?

Currently patients need to set a nomination to use EPS, but the next phase of EPS will mean that the majority of prescriptions will be signed and sent electronically, even for patients who have not set a nomination.

Patients without a nomination will be given a paper token by their GP practice to take to any pharmacy in England. Community pharmacy teams will need to scan the barcode on the token in order to download the prescription.

Any patients that are part of a prescription collection service, but haven’t set a nomination, will have a token printed (instead of a paper FP10) for their pharmacy to collect.

Read more about EPS Phase 4

If your local GP Practice is taking part in the pilot…

Pharmacy teams that are close to GP practices in the pilot and that receive many prescriptions from the practice will be most impacted by the pilot. Those pharmacy teams will be contacted directly by NHS Digital, will receive additional support and they will be asked whether they are happy for their area to take part in the pilot. Factsheets and animation videos will be available to all pharmacy teams to explain the process. Head offices will also be contacted where mulitple branches are particularly impacted.

How will other pharmacy teams be impacted?
As patients are free to choose any pharmacy to get their medicines dispensed from, all pharmacy teams will need to be ready and know what to do should a patient present a non-nominated token in their pharmacy.

Next steps

Community Pharmacy England and NHS Digital will provide further updates as work is carried out to prepare for the pilot. Community Pharmacy England will contact those LPCs who may have pilot sites in their local area to seek their assistance with the pilot.

What needs to happen before the full national deployment of Phase 4?

Community Pharmacy England acknowledged during their July 2016 meeting that there remain outstanding issues related to the current phase of EPS, many of which must be tackled prior to full deployment of Phase 4. Community Pharmacy England has reviewed the current issues and requirements with NHS Digital, and is expecting the pilot to assist in making progress on some of these issues.

NHS Digital is also working with system suppliers and other stakeholders to improve business continuity arrangements to ensure minimal impact of potential system issues or failure.

National rollout of Phase 4 will not automatically follow the successful completion of the pilot. Any future decision on national rollout of Phase 4 will be made by Community Pharmacy England as a separate determination in light of experience gained during the pilot.

Community Pharmacy England comment

Community Pharmacy England Director of NHS Services Alastair Buxton said:

“The pilot of EPS Phase 4 will help community pharmacy and the NHS test the move to ‘full’ EPS in order to make sure the systems are right before any full rollout of this is considered. Identifying issues that need to be addressed before full roll out is critical, in addition to NHS Digital and others completing the actions already identified which need to take place before phase 4. EPS and paper prescribing systems currently coexist and this drives complexity and costs for pharmacy teams; successful implementation of phase 4 will shift the balance to the majority of scripts being electronic, which in turn will remove the inefficiency of the current dual system.

The pilot is therefore very important and we hope that pharmacy teams close to the pilot GP practices will be willing to participate fully in it, sharing their experiences and feedback, both good and bad. If your local GP practice is taking part in the pilot, your pharmacy will be contacted directly by NHS Digital so that you and your team can receive additional support. Both Community Pharmacy England and NHS Digital will be providing further information to those involved at a local level to help them prepare for and engage in the pilot. As patients can take their scripts to any pharmacy, all pharmacy teams in England will need to have a basic understanding of the pilot and what to do if they receive an EPS phase 4 token.”

Further information

If you have questions about this work or would like to discuss it further, please contact Daniel Ah-Thion, Community Pharmacy IT Lead

Read more about EPS Phase 4

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