Almost all prescriptions issued by GP practices will be electronic within weeks, it has been announced.
Ministers said it was the final stage of the roll-out of the programme, which will see an end to patients taking hand-written or printed prescriptions to pharmacies.
Under the scheme, patients are issued a barcode with which to secure their prescription. Almost 70% of prescriptions are now already issued by this means. The government says there has been rigorous testing involving 60 practices and hundreds of pharmacies.
It says that “nearly all” prescriptions will be electronic after the completion of the final stage of the roll-out of the technology. The project is expected to save the NHS £300 million a year.
Primary care minister Jo Churchill said: “Digitising the entire prescription service is a key part of keeping up the drive to make the NHS fit for the 21st century. 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.
“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, 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.”