With Easter this year marking the start of five springtime bank holidays, when some GP practices and pharmacies’ opening hours may change, the time for patients to manage their repeat prescriptions is now.
NHS electronic repeat dispensing gives patients the reassurance of knowing their next prescription will be ready for collection at their pharmacy when they need it, and flexibility so they have medication at busy times.
For GPs, dispensing repeat medications electronically is a great time saver; instead of having to sign prescriptions monthly, they only need to do it once a year. By using electronic repeat dispensing (known as eRD) a GP can authorise up to 12 months’ worth of a patient’s regular prescription, which is stored securely on an NHS database, ready for collection at the patient’s pharmacy. eRD relieves pressure on pharmacists, too, as they can download prescriptions ahead of time and pre-prepare them ready for collection by the patient.
Among the GP practices championing eRD is Haltwhistle Medical Group, in Northumberland, where healthcare staff and patients are in no doubt over its benefits.
“As soon as we started to use the system we realised there wasn’t just a saving for the time of the GPs, it was the administration involved in the process, and the benefits to the patients and the community pharmacists as well,” says Practice Manager Jane Charteries.
“We had meetings with the pharmacists and discussed how the system would work. We wanted to understand how the system worked at their end to make sure we had documents in place so things were happening in the appropriate timescale.
“If we didn’t have the repeat dispensing system in the practice the workload would be massive. I think we’ve got about 200 prescription orders on a Monday morning – without repeat dispensing, so I would hate to come into that with no repeat dispensing prescriptions already in the system.”
Through Haltwhistle Medical Group Carla uses eRD for her daughter’s medication.
“On a regular basis I was ringing up the surgery to put a repeat prescription on for my daughter’s medication and they offered to put that on a repeat dispensary which has worked really well,” Carla says. “It’s taken away all the worry of making sure I have put a repeat prescription on. I can just go to my local chemist and get what my daughter needs, when she needs it.”
Kirsty Sanderson, Healthcare and Medicine Manager at Haltwhistle Medical Group agrees that electronic repeat dispensing is easy to set up and use.
“I think the local pharmacy prefers repeat dispensing, it’s easier for them,” she says. “We have a close-knit community and quite a good relationship with the pharmacy. The pharmacists can make suggestions on change if there are contra-indications to medication which we then pass on to the GP.”
Primary care network pharmacist Alison Smith works at two GP practices, including Haltwhistle, which both use electronic repeat dispensing.
“For the practice, it saves on administration time, it saves on GPs signing the prescription and it saves the patient having to ring in every month to order their prescription,” Alison says.
“If the patient is going on holiday all they have to do is inform the community pharmacy they need to pick their prescription up a little bit early and then the community pharmacy can have it ready for their pick-up.”
If a patient’s medication needs to be changed, electronic repeat dispensing allows for dialogue between their GP practice and the pharmacy to amend the prescription, with patient safety pivotal to the process, Alison explains.
For GP practices that haven’t yet started offering electronic repeat dispensing to their patients, Jane Charteries adds: “If you’re considering using eRD I really would encourage you to give it a go. Start small, start with the easy medications, the ones that are coming in every month for your prescriptions – that’s how to build up and get your system working and give your staff the confidence to use the system.
“I just can’t believe that some practices don’t use repeat dispensing. We’ve used it for years and it’s just brilliant!”
It’s estimated up to 330 million (80%) of the 410 million repeat prescriptions generated every year in NHS primary care could be replaced with eRD which would save 2.7 million hours of GP and practice time.