Retrieving EPS scripts

Retrieving EPS scripts

There are only two ways to access an electronic prescription:

  1. Where a prescription is flagged to be sent to a patient’s nominated pharmacy, the pharmacy system is able to periodically ‘pull down’ (download/retrieve) the message to the local pharmacy system. To minimise network traffic, this will normally be done once daily, over night or first thing in the morning as part of the system start-up process. Pharmacy staff will also be able to initiate a system check for any nominated prescriptions waiting to be pulled down, on an ad hoc basis when necessary. For example, a pharmacy may wish to check for any nominated prescriptions before placing an order with a supplier to ensure that any necessary stock is ordered in time for the patient visiting the pharmacy.
  2. By scanning the barcode on the prescription token or manually inputting the prescription identifier, the electronic prescription can be pulled down to the local pharmacy system.

Note, only Release 2 enabled pharmacy systems will be capable of retrieving an electronic prescription. Release 1 dispensing systems will not be capable of scanning barcodes on Release 2 prescription/ dispensing tokens.

If a pharmacy scans the barcode on a token but the electronic prescription is not available to be ‘pulled down’, the system will send back a ‘reject message’ providing pharmacy staff with a reason why their request has been rejected. Rejection reasons include that the ‘prescription has been cancelled’, the ‘prescription has expired’, the ‘prescription is with another dispenser’, the ‘prescription has been dispensed or marked as ‘not dispensed’ or ‘prescription cannot be found – contact prescriber’. There are a number of reasons why a prescription may not be found on the system, for example, the prescription may have been removed under the EPS housekeeping rules or the prescription may not have arrived at the Spine.

All messages sent via the EPS service are classified as ‘immediate’ or ‘routine’. These classifications are used to prioritise certain prescription flows and don’t relate to the clinical importance of the prescription. On issuing the prescription, the prescriber has the flexibility to classify the prescription.

Acute prescriptions and those which arise from face to face consultations default to ‘immediate’, as the patient is then more likely to be going directly to a pharmacy. Prescriptions that are issued where the patient is not present, for example repeat prescriptions, should normally be classified as ‘routine’. However, service levels require that both immediate and routine messages are sent from the prescribing system to the Spine in a matter of seconds.

Issues with the Spine or the national Electronic Prescription service: Pharmacy staff can register to receive text or email alerts in the event that the national HSCIC systems that support EPS are experiencing issues.


Q. Does the barcode contain any patient sensitive information?
A. No. the barcode does not contain any personal information about the patient but does contain a unique reference number for the prescription. By scanning the barcode or manually inputting the prescription identifier, the electronic prescription message can be pulled down to the local pharmacy system. In Release 1, the prescription identifier code was 32 characters. In Release 2, the prescription identifier code will be 32 characters for non-nominated prescriptions and will be shortened to 18 characters for nominated prescriptions sent electronically. Release 1 systems will not be capable of scanning barcodes on Release 2 prescription/dispensing tokens or manually inputting the 18 character prescription ID to retrieve the electronic prescription.

Q. I am having problems scanning the barcoded forms that are being issued by a particular local prescriber. What should I do?
A. Pharmacies may experience problems scanning barcodes that have been poorly printed, for example if the prescriber’s printer toner is running out or if the prescriber is using the ‘economy setting’ on their printer. Pharmacy contractors should alert the prescriber to this.

Q. Will I continue to receive paper prescriptions as well as electronic prescriptions?
A. Yes. The mix of paper versus electronic prescriptions will vary greatly depending on the location of a pharmacy and patient preferences. Initially only patients who have nominated a dispensing site will be able to receive their prescriptions electronically. There will also be occasions where the prescriber cannot issue an electronic prescription, for example if the prescription is issued during a home visit and the prescriber does not have access to the service or where a particular product cannot be prescribed electronically.

Q. Can electronic prescriptions be post dated?
A. Yes. Prescribers are able to post date electronic prescriptions, however, the prescription will be held on the local prescribing system until the date on the prescription. It will not be available for the dispenser to retrieve in advance of the date on the prescription. Prescribers should consider if repeat dispensing would be more appropriate.

Q. A patient has arrived at the pharmacy expecting medicine relating to an EPS R2 prescription but I cannot see that this prescription has arrived with the pharmacy, what can I do?
A. Occasionally a prescription or prescriptions may be delayed or may not arrive even after pulling down for prescriptions:

  • where a misunderstanding occurred and the GP surgery staff had not fully processed and sent the prescription
  • due to a technical issue.
    • This could be local – with the GP system, the GP system’s message handler, the pharmacy system or the pharmacy system message handler.
    • or national e.g. caused by an intermittent Spine

Where the issue is technical, this might be preventing other prescriptions from being downloaded as well. Where required consider carrying out R2 contingency measures e.g. contacting your system supplier.

The pharmacy may wish to consider:

  • Using the prescription tracker to see whether there is information on the Spine regarding the specific prescription,
  • and where this fails they may wish to contact the GP surgery.
  • After a period, or once the issue is resolved, pulling down on the system to see whether the prescription appears.

It is useful for local pharmacies and local GPs to work together to agree a contingency plan case of  difficulties.

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