It said that EPS would help as it would “improve patient safety by reducing illegible or incomplete prescriptions”.
The report cited a case at Bournemouth and Poole Primary Care Trust, where a service to support patients at home had been assisted by technology making sure that medicine dispensers, such as pharmacists and treatment schedulers, collectively supplied the correct doses of medicine.
The DfH also said that work on the second stage of the EPS rollout had begun in 17 primary care trusts, and aimed to allow prescriptions to be transmitted between surgeries and pharmacists electronically. Work has begun with strategic health authority CIOs to assess how and when more PCTs are chosen to use the service.
The DfH is assessing how to further develop EPS, and one primary care trust was piloting the roll-out of NHS mail to local pharmacies, it said.
In its report, the DfH also made proposals for the disposal of medicine within hospitals, even suggesting the use of robots.
“For patients in hospital, the adoption of decentralised dispensing robots in clinical areas could improve care. This would include the ability of pharmacy staff to be permanently based in clinical settings, maximising their clinical input and impact, and improving multidisciplinary communication.”
“Technology has now developed to the extent that automated hubs for bulk storage and dispensing could control and supply medicines rapidly and accurately,” it added.
Bar codes would play a crucial role in tracking hospital patients and matching their medication to them, the DfH said, following on from the February 2007 publication of a strategy for wider adoption of auto-identification and data capture (AIDC) technologies in healthcare.
The DfH said: “There is evidence of real improvements to patient safety when coding systems are used to match patients to their care: reduction in medication errors and dispensing errors; reduced risk of wrong-site surgery; accurate track and trace of surgical instruments, equipment and other devices; and much better record-keeping. Using coding to manage supplies and purchasing electronically can cut costs dramatically, as well as improve efficiency.”
It added, however, that it would need to ensure that all parties worked to commonly agreed standards, such as the GS1 supply chain standard.