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Volume: 5 Issue: 3
(March 2018)

uk pledges £75 million nhs eprescription systems uk governments secretary state health social care jeremy hunt announced 23 february

UK England

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UK pledges £75 million to NHS ePrescription systems

The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, announced on 23 February 2018 in a BBC interview that the National Health Service (‘NHS’) will receive £75 million of additional Government funding to assist NHS hospitals with their uptake of ePrescription services. Hunt’s announcement followed the publication of a Report by the Short Life Working Group (‘SLWG’) on reducing medication-related harm, commissioned by the Department of Health & Social Care (‘DHSC’) in order to assess the extent of medication error in England, which found that ePrescription systems, amongst other things, demonstrate ‘a substantial reduction in medication-related error.’

Hunt noted in his announcement, made on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, that so far around a quarter of NHS hospitals have ePrescription systems in place, and the additional funding is being provided in order to help hospitals progress further in this regard. “Compared with the overall budget allocated to the NHS, the amount dedicated for ePrescribing is relatively small,” comments Lincoln Tsang, Partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. “The issue here is whether the funding will meaningfully improve patient safety in a real-world environment to minimise and reduce patient safety issues arising from medication errors to render the additional funding allocated for ePrescriptions uptake as cost effective. Additionally, if ePrescribing involves third party vendors outside of the NHS system outside of the control of the health trusts and the healthcare professionals, greater scrutiny should be put in place to oversee compliance with personal data protection.”

The DHSC commissioned the SLWG’s Report in support of the World Health Organization’s (‘WHO’) ‘Medication Without Harm’ campaign, which focuses on patient safety and stresses that all medication errors are potentially avoidable. In its Report, the SLWG lists the use of hospital ePrescribing as one of the key tools for improving systems around medication, highlights the challenges to the implementation of such systems and recommends accelerating the roll-out and optimisation of hospital ePrescription and medicine administration systems in the NHS.

“If a medication error occurs with the same pattern or at an unacceptable frequency, or if it results in serious harm for the patient, it is essential to understand the causes, contributing factors and clinical consequences of the error, as well as possible mitigating actions and solutions which could prevent the error from happening again,” states Tsang. “It has been estimated that 18.7 - 56% of all adverse events that occur among hospitalised patients result from medication errors that would be preventable. Medication errors are thus a concern at all stages of healthcare delivery in healthcare systems.”

The SLWG’s Report notes that to assess the scale of medication error in England, the DHSC commissioned an evidence-based review of the available literature on medication error, which will be published. ‘The review found that the scale of medication error was large and the burden to the NHS significant,’ states the SLWG Report.

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