Scope and oversight (EPS)

Published on: 12th August 2014 | Updated on: 28th March 2022

NHS oversight

NHS Digital manage the national infrastructure for a variety of NHS IT projects. From a community pharmacy perspective, the role of NHS Digital in managing the national infrastructure for the Electronic Prescription Service is the most high profile part of their service offerings. Read more at: NHS and IT/EPS

Original deployment

EPS was originally deployed through two key releases. Release 1 (R1) in which the barcoded paper prescription form remains the legal prescription.

Release 2 which supports the transmission of electronic prescriptions; eRD (Electronic Repeat Dispensing); patient nomination of their selected pharmacy; GP cancellation of e-prescriptions; and the electronic submission of reimbursement claims to the Pricing Authority. Currently, prescriber’s can only issue an electronic NHS prescription where it is being sent electronically to a patient’s nominated pharmacy. EPS was originally rolled out to GP practices and community pharmacies. However, EPS continues to be expanded to urgent and other care settings.

EPS legal basis

An electronic message becomes a legal electronic NHS prescription where:

  • the prescription has been created in electronic form;
  • is signed with an electronic signature;
  • must be sent via the NHS Electronic Prescription Service and no other messaging system*; and
  • is then transferred to the dispensing site as an electronic communication.

REF: The NHS (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2013.

Note: NHS electronic prescriptions processed by NHS community pharmacy contractors must be sent and processed via EPS which uses an appropriate Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) system. The Human Medicines Act 2012 (page 124) explained that electronic prescriptions require appropriate AES.

EPS scope

Prescribers are able to issue via EPS:

  • acute prescriptions,
  • repeat prescriptions (repeat prescribing);
  • and repeatable prescriptions (repeat dispensing)

Note: It will not be possible for a prescriber to use the service to request a bulk prescription (Drug Tariff Part VIII note 9) for a school or institution and private prescriptions are out of scope.

Each electronic NHS prescription may contain up to 4 items.

Technical scope

There will be occasions where a prescriber cannot issue the prescription they wish via EPS for technical reasons. For example, this could occur if the product is not listed on the NHS medicinal item list (Dictionary of Medicines & Devices, dm+d) or if the prescribing system is not able to issue a prescription for the item because the supplier has not ‘mapped’ the appropriate codes. This is likely to affect less commonly prescribed items including products to be specially manufactured or extemporaneously dispensed products.

EPS scope FAQs

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?

A. 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.





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