HL Deb 08 September 2003 vol 652 cc60-1WA
Lord Clement-Jones

asked Her Majesty's Government:

(a) whether they have assessed the number of patients who have come to rely on electronic transmission of prescriptions in the electronic transmission of prescriptions pilots now being terminated;

(b) what timeframes are being agreed for ceasing electronic prescriptions;

(c) what the costs would be for extending the pilots until a "sustainable, national prescription service" can be developed by the National Programme for National Health Service Information; and

(d) what their estimated timescale is for the development of electronic transmission of prescriptions nationwide. [HL3937]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner)

Over the past 12 months the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA) has processed 55,947 electronic prescriptions from the electronic transmission of prescriptions (ETP) pilots, these relate to around 13,500 different patients. This figure is a very small percentage of the 600 million-plus prescriptions processed by the PPA during the period.

The ETP pilots closed at the end of June 2003 and the remaining pilot consortia are in the process of winding-down their pilots. In order to give the pilot consortia reasonable time in which to manage the closure process, the PPA will continue to receive electronic prescriptions for payment processing until 30 September 2003. This should enable pilots to ensure that patients who have signed up for the pilot do not experience difficulties in obtaining their prescriptions, and that they are clear about the arrangements for receiving their medicines once ETP transmission has ceased. The timescale should also minimise inconvenience for healthcare professionals.

The ETP pilots have been closed as they have served their purpose to test the feasability of the electronic transmission of prescriptions. An independent evaluation on the pilots has been completed and received by the Department of Health. Because of this, limited work has been done to model potential costs for their continuation. Based on the current patient and prescription numbers, the costs to the National Health Service and the department are relatively small (with most costs being met by the pilot consortia). However, there are some resource implications. The main costs to the department relate to the processing of the electronic prescriptions from the pilots by the PPA. Assuming prescription volume did not exceed 10,000 items per month and there was no increase in functionality or scope the PPA estimate their costs at around £230,000 per annum. This figure does not include the cost of connecting the participating pharmacies to the NHSNet.

Delivering 21st Century IT states that the National Prescriptions Service will be 50 per cent. implemented by 2005 and fully implemented by 2006–07.