Investigating electronic prescriptions

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Nottingham University researchers have been awarded a £750,000 grant to investigate an electronic prescription system

Nottingham University

researchers have been awarded a £750,000 grant to investigate a system that could save millions of patients a trip to their GPs to collect repeat prescriptions.

The electronic transfer of repeat prescriptions between general practices and pharmacies is currently being rolled out across the UK in a bid to streamline the system and cut down on errors.

The research grant from NHS Connecting for Health will fund a two-year investigation into whether the system, which had its official launch on 1 October 2007, will benefit patients and the NHS. Prof Tony Avery, of Nottingham University Medical School, will lead the study.

Repeat prescriptions account for more than 70 per cent of all prescriptions made on the NHS — around 500 million items of medicine every year. Many are for elderly patients being treated for long-term ongoing conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, musculo-skeletal conditions and diabetes.

Under the new system, repeat prescription orders will be transferred electronically direct from the GP to the pharmacist when the previous prescription expires. The patient need only make a single trip to the pharmacy, where their barcoded prescription form is swiped under an electronic reader and the medicine handed over.

The study will build on Avery's work in the field of patient safety, and will incorporate a large-scale before-and-after study to determine whether the new system results in a reduction in dispensing errors.

Avery will be working alongside colleagues at Nottingham, including Dr Sarah Armstrong in Nottingham University Medical School, Prof Rachel Elliott in the School of Pharmacy and Dr Justin Waring in the School of Sociology. The study is being carried out in collaboration with the London School of Economics and the University of London School of Pharmacy.