Virgin Care is one of the first organisations in the country to have successfully introduced the electronic prescription service (EPS) in paediatric community services, which means an improved experience for families making use of services, with its introduction in Essex helping it to continue supporting families safely through the pandemic.
EPS is a process where a prescription is sent electronically to the patient’s chosen pharmacy, or in some cases made available at any pharmacy in England, via the secure NHS spine system.
EPS is secure, as it is built into the clinical system already used and uses the secure NHS Spine system. GPs have been using EPS for some time, allowing patients to collect prescriptions from their nominated pharmacy after they are issued by a doctor. It can mean that patients get their medicine more quickly than if it had been posted to a pharmacy after a virtual consultation.
Virgin Care introduced EPS to its West Essex Community Paediatric Service during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Service moved to virtual consultations so that it could keep supporting families while minimising face-to-face contact. EPS has benefits for the patient and family, the prescriber and the pharmacy.
In normal times, prescriptions would have been handed to the patient at a consultation, but with virtual consultations this is not possible and the number of prescriptions being posted would have increased significantly.
This could mean a longer wait for drugs for patients waiting for a prescription to arrive, a risk of it being lost in transit and additional costs for the NHS since prescriptions needing posting must be sent through secure postal services.
For patients and their families, EPS is hugely convenient ensuring the prescription is sent to a convenient pharmacy.
Pharmacies benefit because they can see from the prescription sent to them that they need to ensure a drug is in stock before a patient comes in, helping to manage their workload.
While for prescribers, since electronic prescriptions can be tracked by authorised individuals throughout the process until they are dispensed by a pharmacist and changes can be made by the prescriber if needed for any reason, up until the prescription is downloaded by a pharmacy.
Introducing e-prescribing is a part of the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan, which says that patients must benefit from available digital technologies.
The roll-out of EPS required close partnerships with local NHS commissioners and the Local Pharmaceutical Committee who ensured pharmacies were ready for the service to switch from paper to EPS. In addition, Virgin Care needed to train its colleagues to use the system – and developed an eLearning package to support clinicians who were mostly working from home, as a result of the pandemic restrictions.
Since launch the service has been well received by prescribers and introducing EPS has allowed families to continue to receive support while avoiding unnecessary face to face contact.
Following the rollout in Essex, Virgin Care is introducing EPS for its consultant paediatricians in Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire STP area and into adult community nursing services it runs.
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