Electronic Prescription Service (EPS)

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) was initially designed to be deployed in two phases (Releases 1 and 2). This has since been developed further...

Release 1 tested the end-to-end connectivity of GP and pharmacy systems and allowed electronic prescriptions to be simulated, whilst retaining the paper FP10 as the legal prescription. The full electronic prescription service, Release 2 (EPSR2) was then developed and deployed across the country. The legal prescription became the electronic message and the use of paper prescriptions declined. Ongoing development continues with further phases implemented and planned

For some time to come, various different types of prescription will continue to be in circulation; standard FP10s, repeat dispensing prescriptions, EPSR1 prescriptions and EPSR2 tokens. These all need to be processed in different ways with prescription data needing be entered, scanned, or downloaded into the PMR system.

Locally, the Isle of Wight has been using EPSR2 since 2012 where, in some areas, electronic prescriptions now account for more than 80% of the prescriptions issued. During 2014 installation of EPSR2 followed across Southampton, the rest of Hampshire and Portsmouth with usage increasing dramatically since then.

In 2019 we saw the introduction of EPS Release 4 pilots across the country. For us, this was set-up initially in South East Hampshire & Portsmouth (see location details below). PSNC has compiled a set of top tips on using EPS Phase 4 for pharmacy teams; as well as further general information about this latest development. These can be viewed on the following webpages:

* NEW * EPS Phase 4

The following CPSC News article from 27th April 2019 explains more about the inclusion of 3 GP practices in the EPS Phase 4 Pilot extension. The surgeries are all in South-East Hampshire.

Further expansion into Portsmouth followed this. Please read the following CPSC News article from 1st June 2019 for details of the practices involved.

EPS Basics

To be able to receive and process electronic prescriptions, pharmacies must have:

  • A pharmacy PMR system approved by HSCIC (formerly CfH), capable of processing EPSR2 prescriptions and connected to “the spine” by a secure N3 intranet connection.
  • The correct ODS (also known as NACS) code is registered on the system. This is the same code, which starts with the letter "F", that is used when submitting paper prescriptions currently. This number controls which pharmacy the electronic prescriptions are sent to and must be recorded on your system in upper case (i.e FP123). This number can usually be found on the nominations screen.
  • Sufficient terminals, printers (including FP10DT token printers) and smartcard readers to enable Release-2 prescriptions to be received, printed, processed and claimed efficiently.
  • Sufficient Dispensing Tokens (FP10DT) and other consumables (ie: toner cartridges) in stock to make sure the processing of EPS prescriptions is not interrupted.
  • Enough staff with EPSR2 enabled smartcards to allow at all times.
    • the downloading of R2 prescriptions
    • the setting of patient nominations and
    • the issuing of payment claims

The sharing of EPSR2 smartcards is not permitted and may result in smartcards being withdrawn. It is recommended that all pharmacists and sufficient dispensary staff have a smartcard to ensure that there are always at least 2 working smartcards within the pharmacy when it is open. For some sites, many more smartcards will be needed.

The forms needed by members of the pharmacy team who have yet to apply for a smartcard can be found in the All about Smartcards section.

To prepare for EPS Release 2 it is important that you test the systems and change dispensing operating procedures to incorporate the scanning of bar-codes and downloading of e-prescriptions.

The Registration Authority Service, based at the NHS South CSU, Unit 3D, Barton Park, Chicken Hall Lane, Eastleigh, SO50 6RR, are currently managing the smartcard processes for NHS Hampshire, NHS Southampton and NHS Portsmouth. Please contact the RA Team on 0300 561 0429 or email scwcsu.smartcards@nhs.net.

EPS Release 2

Many pharmacies across the SHIP area are already EPSR2 enabled. Those that aren’t will need to be upgraded in the very near future as GP practices in all CCG areas locally will be moving to prescribing using EPSR2 over the next twelve months, or so. Guidance on getting started and preparing to upgrade is available to help.

If you haven’t already upgraded to Release-2 capability, act now to prepare for the change

  • Make sure your dispensary system is Release-2 compliant and upgrade if necessary
  • Make sure you and your staff, including locums, understand how to operate the system and process Release-2 prescriptions (arrange training if necessary)
  • Consider how you will need to work differently when processing electronic prescriptions
  • Ensure that everyone in your pharmacy that will need a Release-2 smartcard has one. As an absolute minimum, there should be at least two staff working that have EPSR2 smartcards at all times.
  • Develop a process for collecting and registering patient nominations. HSCIC have issued the national nomination policy which can be found at http://systems.hscic.gov.uk/eps/library/nomination.pdf

Pharmacy and dispensing appliance contractors will receive a £1,000 payment from the Department of Health, as specified in the Drug Tariff, after they are enabled to use EPS Release 2.

The validation process is a key activity that has to be completed before a dispensing site can go live with EPS Release 2. Originally, there was a physical bar-coded prescription ( golden token) that had to scanned at the pharmacy to test the system and check that everything was working as expected. This is no longer the case and an equivalent process is now carried out by the system suppliers. Nowadays, upgrades are done remotely so there is no on site engineer and therefore no golden token. Instead this is simulated by the supplier as part of the remote upgrade. Any contractor that believes they are live with R2 but hasn't had their status upgraded should take this up with their system supplier as a matter of urgency.

Once the pharmacy has been validated it will

  • trigger the one-off EPS Release 2 allowance of a £1000 payment to the dispensing contractor
  • show the dispensing site as EPS Release 2 enabled on the NHS website, and is therefore able to be nominated by patients wishing to use the service
  • allow patient nominations to be created and registered on the spine

Pharmacies can check their status on the Health and Social Care Information Centre

EPS Release 2 Business Process Guidance for Initial Implementers (April 2009) and also on the NHS website.

It is important as you move to EPS Release 2 that you have in stock the dispensing tokens that are necessary to capture patient’s exemption status. For information about dispensing tokens HSCIC have produced a helpful factsheet.

Dispensing Tokens - order from:

The order form is attached (Pharmacy Stationery Requisition) and the code for dispensing tokens is FP10DT.

Here are the guidance documents available from the Health and Social Care Information Centre describing their use.