The NHS will be expanding use of Electronic Prescription Services (EPS) across England, the Government announced over the weekend.

EPS is designed to help GPs and pharmacists prescribe and dispense medicines more efficiently, making the process of picking up repeat prescriptions easier for patients.

While patients will see little change to how they are prescribed medicines from their GP, it is hoped that a faster and more secure prescription process that heavily reduces reliance on paper-based processes can save up to £300 million by 2021.

Using EPS requires patients to nominate a pharmacy or dispenser, if a patient has already done so, their medicines will continue to be sent directly there. Otherwise a unique prescription barcode will be included on a patient’s prescription, which can be scanned at any pharmacy to retrieve medication details. This information is held on the secure NHS database and will allow a patient’s prescription to be accessed quickly by GPs and pharmacies.

Paper prescriptions will still be used occasionally in exceptional circumstances, but almost all prescriptions will be processed electronically. Patients who do not wish to nominate a pharmacy will still receive paper copy of their prescription.

“Digitising the entire prescription service is a key part of keeping up the drive to make the NHS fit for the 21st century,” said Jo Churchill, Primary Care Minister, “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.”

She continued: “It’s another important step towards eventually making all prescriptions paperless. We are continuing to improve technology across the NHS which will ultimately improve care for patients.”

Dr Ian Lowry, Director of Digital Medicines and Pharmacy at NHS Digital also commented on the announcement, he said: “Every prescription that is sent electronically saves money for the NHS by increasing efficiency. 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.”