Regs reminder (#6): EPS access

Ahead of the 2021/22 contract monitoring process, community pharmacy contractors are reminded of recent changes to the pharmacy Terms of Service. This article is part of a series of reminders.

On 20th October 2020 new NHS regulations were laid to introduce changes to the Terms of Service for pharmacy contractors. PSNC issued a series of 14 Regs explainer articles in November 2020 to help contractors and their teams to understand the new requirements.

Whilst deadlines for compliance with the changes have now passed, the end of 2020 was a particularly busy time for pharmacies, so contractors are advised to review our reminders in preparation for completing the 2021/22 Community Pharmacy Assurance Framework (CPAF) survey, which will include questions on some aspects of the new Terms of Service.

What is required?

The NHS Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), managed by NHS Digital, is used by virtually all community pharmacies in England and the vast majority of prescriptions written in the community are now prescribed via the system.

Contractors must ensure their staff have access to the Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) at their pharmacy premises and that access must be constant and reliable throughout core and supplementary opening hours, in so far as that is within the control of the contractor.

Situations where constant and reliable access to EPS may be outside the control of the contractor could include the EPS system being down at a national level and internet connection problems or power supply issues which the contractor has reported and their provider is seeking to fix. A failure to ensure a new pharmacist or pharmacy technician member of staff or a locum has a working NHS smartcard which allows access to EPS would be a circumstance within the control of the contractor.

Another new requirement is that where a contractor is unable to access the EPS to dispense an EPS prescription, they must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the item is supplied within a reasonable timescale. These steps may include:

  • providing the patient with the details of other pharmacies in the area who may be able to dispense the prescription;
  • making an urgent supply at the request of a prescriber; or
  • contacting the prescriber and asking them for the urgent provision of a non-electronic prescription form.

These steps match what most contractors would do in the circumstance of access to EPS being temporarily lost. Additional guidance and options that could be considered in this circumstance can be found on our IT business continuity page including the How to manage EPS technical failures factsheet.

Where they haven’t already, contractors may wish to sign up to the utility services Priority Services Register. Inclusion on this register should give the pharmacy priority access to electricity, water and gas supplies.

Find out more about the Priority Services Register

Another minor change to the regulations related to dispensing, allows owing notes which are provided to patients when their full prescription item cannot be dispensed at that time, to be provided in an electronic form, for example via email, text or an app.

Where can I get more support on this?

Further information and guidance on EPS and business continuity can be found in the EPS section of our website and the NHSE&I guidance.

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