IT and EPS contingency planning
Published on: 16th July 2013 | Updated on: 22nd June 2022
Business continuity resources are found at our Business continuity hub and the emergency and business continuity and template planning page. IT/EPS-specific additional resources and some suggested actions include the below. This website section has continued to be updated in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Live issues: EPS prescriptions, risk of increased invalid signature errors, June 2022
Issue: The NHS Digital 1B smartcard certificate used for signing of EPS prescriptions is due to expire on 27th June 2022. NHS Digital have identified a potential risk whereby prescriptions that have been signed using the 1B certificate prior to expiry but are downloaded after the expiry date may be incorrectly identified by some pharmacy systems as having an invalid digital signature. Whilst system suppliers have taken steps to mitigate this, there remains the possibility that live incidents may be experienced.
Impact: While all pharmacy systems can download these EPS prescriptions as normal, those presenting with ‘Invalid Signature’ are not able to be processed (dispensed and claimed). This can result in a delay to the dispensing and supply of medicines to a patient.
Action for pharmacies: If you are unable to process a prescription due to an “Invalid Signature” please refer to business continuity guidance. These support pages on the PSNC website will also provide advice on steps to be taken to support patients when EPS prescriptions cannot be obtained (see section below, ‘When EPS prescriptions cannot be obtained’).
This issue must also be reported to your system supplier immediately via the EPS escalation route.
Temporary closure checklist
- Emergency closure checklist for community pharmacy – includes contractual, IT and other actions
Broader IT/EPS planning
- Pharmacy or ODS/IT change checklist for working through if you change supplier/ODS/IT/ownership/location.
- Working with GP practices on EPS business continuity for before or during an issue.
Technical failure, outages, live status, and systems
- See: List of suppliers and their info and the ‘service status link’ column present within supplier tables. Some suppliers provide live service status: at their websites; on Twitter; by email; and/or within the system itself.
- Real Time Exemption Checking (RTEC) system: See the ‘Business continuity’ section of the RTEC webpage.
- EPS and NHS IT service status checker webpage
- Guidance in event of technical failure
- Understanding EPS/IT failure points
- Avoiding data loss with PMR backup processes
- EPS Troubleshooting Factsheet (NHS Digital).
- Software/hardware may be upgraded but speak with your supplier or IT support first to maintain compatibilities
Updating opening hours on Directory of Services (DoS) and NHS website
For information about updating hours at DoS and NHS website see:
Working with EPS prescriptions and tokens
- Returning EPS prescription to the Spine
- Steps for locating a missing EPS prescription
- Using EPS Tracker standard mode or continuity mode e.g. how to use Tracker to obtain an EPS prescription number and pull down prescriptions more speedily, and more.
- Submitting EPS prescription in a timely fashion to mitigate issues in case of a temporary closure or technical outage.
- Split prescription items – dispensing for patients with medicines on both EPS and paper.
- EPS token problems with receiving or printing these.
- EPS Troubleshooting Factsheet (NHS Digital)
When EPS prescriptions cannot be obtained
The EPS troubleshooting factsheet sets out options for those situations when an EPS prescription cannot be resolved. The guide explains these are “in no particular order and professional judgment required to ascertain urgency and best option for the patient”.
- Patient to return to the pharmacy at a later time (if script not required immediately).
- Deliver prescriptions to patient when systems are resumed.
- Emergency supply at the request of the prescriber.
- Paper FP10 prescriptions printed by arrangement with the GP surgery.
- Referral to another pharmacy (not suitable for some scenarios).
- Refer to our psnc.org.uk/reportIT webpage which includes links to our reporting EPS one-pager factsheet, Smartcard escalation process, NHSmail escalation process and more. This webpage also explains: if your pharmacy is faced with having to close temporarily and you have an outstanding question about EPS/IT please contact email@example.com. PSNC is working with NHS Digital and other organisations regarding the arrangements in the event of a temporary closure.
- Medicine database issues – medicinal items must be mapped against NHS medicine database (dm+d).
- Smartcards multi-site and SCR arrangements including the COVID-19 updates
- Obtaining Temp Access Smartcards if your local RA provides these.
- Setting up Smartcard sponsors/unlockes with extra admin/unlocking rights to reduce reliance on
- NHSmail webpage – technical queries section
- Spine EPS and NHS IT alerts can be sent to you to warn you of major NHS IT issues
- SCR reporting business continuity if this does not work.
- Ensure team members have Smartcards set-up with the appropriate roles and ODS codes on them (multi-site where needed) and NHSmail personal accounts that link to the pharmacy shared NHSmail mailbox.
- Review the webpages within this website section to support your IT contingency efforts.
- Sign-up to receive Spine EPS and NHS IT alerts so that you can receive an email or text when there are national EPS problems.
- Favourite and use the EPS and NHS IT service status checker webpage to check if NHS IT issues relate to national or system issues.
- Sign-up for Priority Services Register (PSR) for priority to utilities access in event of problems.
Return to the IT section: EPS home
For more information on this topic please email firstname.lastname@example.org