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Julian HarrisonResearch shows that most GPs believe electronic repeat dispensing will reduce their prescribing workload and predicts good initial uptake of the new service. However, the survey also reveals there is still confusion about some key aspects of the EPS R2 service.

The online survey of 1,006 UK regionally representative GPs – conducted by Doctors.net.uk for NHS mail order pharmacy Pharmacy2U – questioned GPs about their understanding of electronic repeat dispensing, which will be a key feature of Release 2 of the Electronic Prescribing Service (EPS R2), due to launch in England later this year.

Electronic repeat dispensing involves GPs digitally authorising bundles of repeat prescriptions, which are dispensed over time by the patient’s nominated pharmacy. On average, GPs in England said they would expect to use it for 39% of patients on repeat medication.

Nearly all GPs surveyed appreciated the benefits of electronic repeat dispensing. 71% felt it would be more convenient for the patient, with 68% believing it would reduce their prescribing workload.

However, one in five GPs (20%) were either not aware that electronic repeat dispensing was to be introduced under EPS R2 or did not understand it.

The survey revealed some also had concerns:rn

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    • 43% were concerned about the reduction of opportunities to review patients’ medication

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    • 33% were concerned about the loss of GP control over repeat prescribing to pharmacy

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rnThe research also showed that a staggering 58% of respondents in England did not know that, under EPS R2, patients are free to nominate an authorised pharmacy located anywhere in England to dispense their medication.

Dr Julian Harrison, Commercial Director at Pharmacy2U – which manages repeat medication requests for hundreds of GP practices – said: “Fully electronic prescribing under EPS R2 has the potential to reduce administrative pressure on GPs and their practices. The research indicates a good initial acceptance from GPs – yet it seems there is still confusion about how the new system will work, and some concerns about loss of control in the area of repeat dispensing.rn

“It’s particularly worrying that so few GPs seem to understand the new rules around patient nomination of pharmacies, as widening choice and convenience are important patient benefits associated with EPS R2.”

rnThe survey also gave an insight into GPs’ prescribing workload. The average time spent processing repeat prescriptions was 39 minutes a day, with 14 minutes a day spent handling urgent, same-day repeat requests.

Fifty-one per cent of GPs felt these last-minute requests were an ‘irritant’, and 17% said they often had to work late to handle them.

Dr Harrison added: “Improving patient participation in managing their repeat medication is one of the areas Pharmacy2U works on. We offer a reminder service for patients that use our mail order repeat script service, which helps them avoid running out of medications and reduces the number of last-minute requests to GPs.rn

“Once the patient requests their medication, we arrange the prescription with their GP in good time, and dispense and deliver the medicines to the patient’s chosen delivery address.”