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Pharmacists shut out of Electronic Prescription Service

System fault causes chaos over Easter holidays

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Telecommunication problems have caused a major IT failure, leaving pharmacists unable to access the electronic prescription service (EPS). 

The situation, reported in Chemist & Druggist, was described as ‘a nightmare’ as pharmacies using system supplier Cegedim were unable to download electronic prescriptions during the busy Easter period. 

At the start of this week, contractors complained that they were still unable to receive prescriptions sent during this time, with Cegedim stating that it was aware of ‘a small number of messages’ on the central NHS IT system that had not been sent and which would be released yesterday (April 14). 

Cegedim, said the fault, which began on the evening of Wednesday April 8, and lasted until Saturday morning (April 11), was due to changes made by BT. 

The problem has caused chaos for pharmacies across the country, with the fall-out continuing beyond the initial outage period. Some pharmacists have complained of scripts from last week being undownloadable, while others have noticed errors on prescriptions, as well as missing and cancelled items. 

Cegedim has said a full cause analysis is currently being delivered by its suppliers. Simon Driver, managing director of Cegedim, has said the company will act upon the analysis to prevent an event occurring in the future. In addition, Cegedim has invested more than £2m in a facility to provide ‘additional resilience to the service’. 

The reliability of the Electronic Prescription Service will become ever more critical, following the Department of Health’s announcement, earlier this year, that it would remove the requirement for paper prescriptions for schedules 2 and 3 controlled drugs. The move will take effect on July 1.

Commenting, a Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesperson said: “It is disappointing it occurred as it caused problems for patients, pharmacists and GPs”.

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