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Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Prescriptions to go online
GP prescribing
GPs will e-mail prescriptions to pharmacies
The days of the illegible prescription are set to become a thing of the past under government plans to link up GPs and pharmacies.

Health minister Lord Hunt has announced plans to pilot a scheme next year enabling GPs to send prescriptions to pharmacies via e-mail.

If the pilot is successful all GPs in England could be e-mailing prescriptions to pharmacies by 2004.

The scheme is part of the Government's National Pharmacy Strategy.

The scheme aims to make it easier and faster for patients to obtain prescribed drugs.

It will also help to reduce the likelihood of prescription fraud, which is estimated to cost the NHS across the UK millions every year.

Our vision for pharmacy in the future is one where pharmacists spend more time focusing on individual patient's clinical needs

Lord Hunt, Health Minister

The strategy also includes plans to improve out-of-hours pharmacy services. In many areas of the country, there are no pharmacies open in the evening or late at night.

Ministers are also working on a scheme to enable nurses working on the telephone helpline NHS Direct to directly refer callers to pharmacists when appropriate. They are planning to introduce that scheme by 2002.

"Our vision for pharmacy in the future is one where pharmacists spend more time focusing on individual patient's clinical needs and in particular helping get the most for their medicines.

"The electronic transmission of prescriptions will enable GPs to email pharmacies directly - no longer having to rely on pieces of paper."

Technology companies have been invited to bid for the initial pilot projects for the scheme.

People can already order over-the-counter medicines and private prescriptions over the internet.

Speaking at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Birmingham, Lord Hunt said ministers were also considering allowing NHS patients to log on to a pharmacy website and order their own prescription.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to bring most government services on line by 2005.

The national plan for the NHS outlined proposals to use technology to improve services for patients.

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