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EPS update signals lack of transition planning

By News team

GPs in England will be free to decide when they start issuing electronic NHS prescriptions from 1 April 2013, according to an update from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. Currently, only primary care trusts that have been authorised through Secretary of State Directions can instruct their GPs to "go live" with release 2 of the electronic prescription service.

The PSNC update follows talks with the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health, and highlights several issues related to ongoing support for the EPS (see Panel) after PCTs are abolished. Responsibility for supporting pharmacists to use the EPS will transfer to the NHS Commissioning Board, which may either provide support functions itself through its regional or area teams or make arrangements for commissioning support units or IT providers to deliver them.

The update says that contractors will be able to find out when GPs intend to start issuing electronic prescriptions by checking the . GPs will have to give eight weeks’ notice of their intended go-live date. NHS CfH will also start to send a weekly e-mail to local pharmaceutical committees with tailored information about which pharmacies are expected to be affected by planned GP deployments.

PSNC NHS IT lead Lindsay McClure highlighted the need for robust local infrastructure to support initial deployment and on-going use of the service. She told PJ Online: "In some areas of the country, transition planning is at an advanced stage with continuity likely. However, in other areas, there is a risk that gaps in support will appear between PCTs being abolished and EPS support services being established within the new organisational structures. "

Ms McClure explained that much of the detail of the new arrangements will be determined at a local level. "It is essential that there is local engagement on EPS transition planning between LPCs and the outgoing and incoming NHS organisations. The current priority is identifying those areas where there are likely to be problems and putting in place solutions before there is an impact on end users. If pharmacies have specific concerns about local arrangements they are advised to their LPCs who will have the latest local information."

For technical problems, contractors should continue to their system supplier as their first port of call, says the PSNC.

Other issues highlighted by the PSNC

The PSNC update reveals that proactive monitoring of the EPS to identify any unusual or unexpected distribution of nominations will stop after 1 April 2013. PCTs currently carry out this function and, where an anomaly is spotted, consider whether further investigation or action is appropriate. However, the PSNC says that the NHS CB will continue to have a duty to act on complaints about abuse of the service, and NHS CfH will continue to provide reports about nominations to support the investigation of complaints.

The update also highlights that the NHS CB will be responsible for the issue of smartcards and says that guidance is expected to be published by CfH this month (February 2013) to invite organisations, including pharmacies, to apply to become a pilot registration authority. Ms McClure stressed that ensuring continuity in registration authority support is of particular concern given the business critical nature of smartcards.

See also: IT operating model fails to dispel concerns over EPS support
Concerns over future support for electronic prescription service
Pharmacies could be given power to issue smartcards

Citation: Electronicjuice DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11117671

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