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Paper Prescriptions Give Way to e-Prescriptions in Northern Ireland

An agreement between Hewlett Packard and the government in Northern Ireland will lead to the phasing out of paper prescriptions towards the implementation// of an e-prescriptions service.

The Department for Health Social Services and Public Safety has announced that community pharmacies across Northern Ireland will be equipped with an electronic system to transfer prescriptions over the next two years.

The department is expected to save £4m in administration costs as well as improve patient safety following the implementation of the computerized system. A two dimensional barcode on prescriptions Is expected to reduce transcription errors, increase efficiency as well as improve communication between family doctors, pharmacists, and the health department.

In addition it is thought that this system will help to stop fraud by cross-referencing patient and prescription information against social security and other records.

An eight year contract has been signed with Hewlett Packard Northern Ireland to deliver and support the system, known as the Electronic Prescribing and Eligibility System (EPES). Paul Simpson, deputy secretary at the health department, said: "In essence, the EPES is about modernising the prescribing and dispensing process to improve patient safety, lower administration costs and reduce fraud in the provision of health care in Northern Ireland."

In England, the NHS had proposed the delivery of an electronic prescription service as part of its national IT program. According to its original plan, every GP surgery would have access to the service by 2007, but no progress has been made in the system beyond pilot schemes.

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