The announcement comes after a trial run at 60 GP practices and hundreds of pharmacies received positive results.
The Department for Health and Social Care said the new electronic prescription service (EPS), will “help GPs and pharmacists prescribe and dispense medicines faster and more securely and make it easier for patients to pick up repeat prescriptions.”
How will digital prescriptions work?
Under the EPS plans, NHS patients will receive a paper prescription with a unique barcode. When a patient visits their pharmacist, the unique barcode can be scanned to retrieve medical information.
The Department of Health and Social Care insists that the confidential medical information will be stored on a “secure NHS database” called Spine, which will make it easier and faster for GPs and pharmacists to access patients’ prescriptions. Paper prescriptions will still be available for those who rely on them.
Primary Care Minister Jo Churchill said, “This will free up vital time for GPs and allow pharmacists to spend more time with their patients, and save millions of pounds a year.
How does it save money?
The government claims that EPS will save the cash-strapped NHS £300 million by 2021 by “increasing efficiencies” and “reducing prescribing errors”.
Under the new system, patients will not need to visit their GP to pick up a repeat prescription, and will be able to digitally sign and cancel prescriptions without the need for a physical signature.
Dr Ian Lowry, Director of Digital Medicines and Pharmacy at NHS Digital, said, “The system is also safer and more secure, as prescriptions can’t be lost and clinicians can check their status online.
“This is a huge milestone to reach, and one which benefits patients, GPs, pharmacists and the NHS as a whole.”