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Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements have been put in place for those doctors who were participating in the electronic transmission of prescriptions pilots to continue to be able to use the ETP system while the national model is under consideration. [127033]

There are elements within the electronic transmission of prescriptions (ETP) systems that general practitioner practices that participated in the pilots could continue to use as part of the electronic prescribing process. This arrangement will likely to be subject to agreement between the practices and pilot consortia. It will not be possible however to transmit the prescription electronically using a GP's electronic signature as the temporary legislation to enable the ETP pilots to use electronic signatures was put in place for the pilots only. The Prescription Pricing Authority will continue to receive electronic prescriptions for payment processing until 30 September 2003 to ensure that patients who have signed up for the pilot do not experience difficulties in obtaining their prescriptions and that they are clear about the arrangements for receiving their medicines once ETP transmission has ceased. After 30 September 2003, participating GPs will revert to the manual process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he intends to introduce the national model for e-prescribing. [127034]

The National Programme for National Health Service Information Technology is considering a range of options for delivering a robust national model to deliver electronic transmission of prescriptions.

The Government remains committed to achieving the targets outlined in Delivering 21st Century IT Support for the NHS of a national prescription service, 50 per cent, of which will be implemented by the end of 2005, with all of it fully implemented by 2006–07.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make an assessment of the findings of the electronic transmission of prescriptions pilots. [127035]

The pilots have been independently evaluated by the Sowerby Centre for Health Informatics Newcastle. The draft evaluation reports are currently being reviewed by the Department of Health and will be finalised shortly. Among the key findings of the evaluation is that electronic transmission of prescriptions is technically viable and could provide a range of benefits including improved patient choice and safety.