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Dr Tony Kaye is a GP partner at the Davyhulme Medical Centre, Trafford

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While electronic prescriptions are very new to some GP practices, for my North West-based practice they are a way of life.

rnAs one of the early adopters of Electronic Prescriptions Release 2 (EPS R2), we have two years’ experience under our belt and more than 4,000 patients using the service.

As well as helping GPs – for example, saving time on the administration of repeat prescriptions – electronic prescriptions offer many patient benefits.rn

Greater choice and convenience for patients

rnUnder EPS R2, patients have far greater choice about which pharmacy they choose to manage their prescription requests. The technical term is nomination – patients can nominate any EPS R2-enabled pharmacy, anywhere in England, to dispense their medication.

Many of my patients have nominated the pharmacy next door to the surgery, while others have opted for the convenience of having their repeat prescriptions sent electronically to a pharmacy close to their home or work.

EPS R2-enabled online pharmacies with home delivery services are another choice that can suit certain patient groups – for example, people who live a long way from a local pharmacy and those who can’t get to a pharmacy during their long working hours.

More choice means more convenience for patients, who can choose the pharmacy providing the service that is right for their individual needs. The streamlined electronic process means it is now possible for people on repeats to order and – in the case of home delivery services – receive their medication without even leaving home.rn

GP awareness of choice

rnIn July 2011, research among 1,000 GPs showed a high lack of awareness among the profession about patients’ right to choice under EPS R2 – 58% of GPs didn’t know that patients could now choose any EPS R2-enabled pharmacy anywhere in England.

With electronic prescriptions now far more widespread, I am sure that level of awareness will have increased. Practices which are live with EPS R2 should certainly be in no doubt – they will have signed up to a PCT-wide nomination policy that commits them to core principles including:rn

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    • Patients must be provided with sufficient information about EPS before a nomination is captured. Key points include: any dispensing contractor operating EPS Release 2 can be nominated; patients are not restricted to nominating a dispensing contractor located close to their GP practice.

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    • Patients must not be influenced to nominate a specific dispensing contractor:dispensing contractors should not offer any type of inducement to encourage patients to nominate them; primary medical care contractors should not seek to persuade a patient to nominate a dispenser recommended by the prescriber or the contractor. This principle is underpinned by NHS regulation*.

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rnElectronic prescriptions are just one of a series of moves in the NHS to give patients more control of how they manage their own health. Patients’ choice of pharmacy is theirs alone.

Dr Tony Kaye is a GP partner at the Davyhulme Medical Centre, Trafford

For further information, see these FAQs for GP practices from the Health and Social Care Information Centre. http://systems.hscic.gov.uk/eps/library/faqs/nomination

* Dispensing contractors’ Terms of Service (see The NHS (Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2005)