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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

EPS & the NHS Re-organisation

The following is a high level summary of EPS-related changes that took place on the 1st April 2013. Information on local arrangements such as changes in the arrangements for obtaining smartcards will be available from LPCs. Across the country, planning for the transition of support functions is at different stages; in some areas, future arrangements are already confirmed, in others, this is still under discussion.

NHS Connecting for Health transferred to the new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)

NHS Connecting for Health closed on 31 March 2013. Many of its functions, including the Electronic Prescription Service, have transferred to the new Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). The new website address is and email address; the office address and phone numbers remain the same.

New NHS IT  Operating Model

PCTs currently undertake a range of tasks that support pharmacies in accessing and using national NHS IT applications. On the 1st April 2013, responsibility for supporting pharmacies in using these services transferred to NHS England (formally known as the NHS Commissioning Board).

The document – Securing excellence in IT Services: Operating model for community pharmacies, appliance contractors, dental practices and community optometry – sets out NHS organisational responsibilities in relation to IT.

Where there is a national policy directive for contractors to provide a service, including the Electronic Prescription Service, NHS England, through its regional/area teams may either provide support functions itself or make arrangements for commissioning support units (CSUs) or any other IT provider to deliver them.

GP IT services will be managed by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) on behalf of NHS England. A CCG may choose to provide support functions to GP practices itself or make arrangements to commission support from CSUs or another IT provider – whilst it is possible that in some areas, NHS England and CCGs will commission the same CSU to provide EPS support for pharmacies and GPs respectively, this may not always be the case.

Authorisation of GPs to deploy EPS Release 2

Prior to 1st April 2013, only PCTs that have been authorised through Secretary of State Directions can direct their GPs to start issuing electronic NHS prescriptions. From April 1st 2013, the EPS Authorisation Directions will no longer apply; GP practices anywhere in England will be able to decide when they go-live without requiring prior authorisation. To ensure that adequate notice of GP go-live dates is available to pharmacies, the following technical controls have been put in place for GP practice go-live requests made after 1st April 2013:

  • The GP practice's EPS provider (e.g. CSU/IT provider) must formally notify HSCIC of their intention to deploy via a national tracking database.
  • HSCIC will not allow connection to the Spine unless a minimum notice period of 8 weeks has been provided.
  • If a GP practice does not enable EPS R2 within 2 weeks of their planned date, they will need to pass through the process again, giving fresh notice of their intent to deploy.

Information on planned deployments can be accessed via the EPS Release 2 deployment map or via a list published in Excel; both resources are updated weekly by the HSCIC. From April 2013,   LPCs will receive a weekly email with tailored information from the tracking database on which pharmacies in their locality are expected to be affected by planned GP deployments.

Arrangements for distribution of smartcards

NHS England through its regional/area teams will be responsible for the issue of smartcards. Given the business and patient safety critical nature of smartcards, an RA needs to be in reasonable proximity to the pharmacies that it supports and have opening hours that properly reflect the realities of pharmacy practice. Contractors should report any concerns about the adequacy of local RA arrangements to LPCs.

A copy of the operating guidance for Registration Authorities for 2013-4 can be accessed on the HSCIC website.

A significant challenge to date has been inconsistency in local RA policies and in some areas, poor adherence to national guidance, for example refusal to issue the locum user role profile (FFFFF) where pharmacists have a legitimate need for it. As NHS England will ultimately be responsible for the provision of RA support, it is anticipated that there will be improved consistency in the application of RA policy.

Arrangements for distribution of tokens

NHS England through its regional/area teams will be responsible for the issue of tokens.

Arrangements for supervision of nomination functionality

NHS England have a duty to act on complaints about abuse of the service where the GP or pharmacy Terms of Service may have been breached. The HSCIC will be providing the NHS with both summary and detailed reports about nominations to support the investigation of complaints.

Authoring payment of the On-going EPS Allowance

NHS England through its regional/area teams will be responsible for authorisation of the EPS On-going Allowance (Drug Tariff Part VIA). NHS Prescription Services will continue to process payment of the on-going EPS allowance.

Support with co-ordinating resolution of local issues arising in use of the service

For technical problems using the EPS service, system suppliers are currently and should continue to be a contractor’s first point of contact. PCTs previously play a role in resolving operational issues that couldn’t be resolved directly between GPs and pharmacists, for example if inappropriate information is being included in electronic prescriptions for printing on the right hand side of dispensing tokens. Going forward, there may be a variety of organisations involved in supporting resolution of problems; this could include relevant leads at CSUs, CCGs or LATs.

General Support for Deployment

In some areas, PCTs have supported deployment by organising beneficial local awareness raising events or facilitating bringing together GPs and pharmacies to discuss business change. In many areas, this type of support will continue to be available, but in other areas, it may not. Support is available if LPCs want to independently organise events to provide support for contractors.

Background Information

Securing excellence in IT Services: Operating Model for Community Pharmacies, Appliance Contractors, Dental Practices and Community Optometry

Operating Guidance for Registration Authorities 2013-14

EPS Release 2 Section of PSNC Website