Spine (NHS IT)

Published on: 20th July 2015 | Updated on: 7th April 2022

The NHS central ‘Spine’ is the digital central point allowing key NHS online services and allowing the exchange of information across local and national NHS systems.

What is the Spine?

The Spine connects pharmacy teams with GP practice staff, patients and others.
It provide a key role with allowing the information exchanges needed for:

The Spine within EPS

Using the EPS, GP practices which are ‘live’ with EPSR2 can digitally issue and sign an EPS prescription, and send the  electronic prescription to the central NHS Spine. The patient’s demographic information is stored on the NHS Spine, and this includes the information regarding their chosen nominated pharmacy.

When staff from the nominated pharmacy team ‘pull down’ (or download) any outstanding prescriptions, they will download the relevant prescription from the Spine so that the pharmacy team can carry out the dispensing, apply endorsement and exemption information to the electronic prescription, and send dispense and claim messages.

The dispense and claim messages will be sent from the pharmacy system to the Spine, so that the Pricing Authority can retrieve the information from the Spine in order to price the prescription.

Understanding possible points of EPS system failure

Read more at Failure points.

Spine alerts

Read more at Spine alerts.

'Spine2' developments

The contract with BT to provide the Spine ended in 2014. This change has allowed increased flexibility to make changes to the EPS functionality.


The Spine was updated so that pharmacy system suppliers could choose to make new enhancements to improve the systems for pharmacies. The developments which system suppliers may wish to develop following pharmacy requests are:

  • Setting up receipt acknowledgement messages – Spine 2 can confirm when it has received and successfully processed prescription, dispensing and claims messages, rather than only alerting systems when it encounters errors.
  • The ability to amend prescriptions which had been sent to the Pricing Authority – Spine 2 will permit claim messages submitted to the Pricing Authority during a month to be amended later in that same month, to allow adding endorsements or correcting errors in the dispensed product.
  • The EPS Prescription Tracker application, enabled EPS users to search for prescriptions using the patient’s NHS Number.

It will be possible for system suppliers to make these features available after the transition where pharmacy systems introduce them. 

Escalation process: General enquiries regarding Spine services

Most pharmacy contractor queries should usually be right going through the EPS service route set out at: http://cpe.org.uk/reporteps

NHS Digital’s Spine webpage (https://digital.nhs.uk/services/spine) also mentions relevant support may be obtained by calling the NHS Digital National Service Desk on 0300 3035035 or [PMR suppliers might also] raise a [ticket] using the national service desk tool.

Further info

If you have queries on this webpage or you require more information please contact it@cpe.org.uk. To share and hear views about digital developments with like-minded pharmacy team members, join the CP Digital email group today.



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