MORE than £2m could be spent on rolling out electronic prescriptions at the Great Western Hospital in a bid to increase patient safety and build up continuity of care.

Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £250,000 from NHS England's Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards Technology Fund, to support the implementation of an electronic prescribing and medicines administration (EPMA) system.

A pilot will begin in November and it is anticipated that EPMA will be launched across all acute wards by March 1 next year.

Following the initial grant and provided the hospital meets targets set by the Safer Wards Technology Fund, it will receive a further £935,000 over several installments to roll out the project to all wards at a cost £2,196,400.

EPMA means teams will be able to use portable computers to manage medication electronically, from prescribing through to supply and administration, rather than the handwritten paper charts that are currently used.

The new system aims to provide safer and improved patient care and help to prevent medication being prescribed incorrectly because notes have been lost or are illegible.

It will also mean better communication between hospital staff and access to automatic warnings relating to allergic reactions and drug interactions and prescribing guidelines.

Staff will also have real-time access to legible and accurate information about patients, their medication and medical history.

“We already do prescribe electronically in out-patients and the information goes straight to our pharmacy, so this is really building on this for in-patients,” said Peter Russell, director of information, management and technology at GWH.

“It’s relatively new and some hospitals started to use it just four or five years ago. It’s the next thing that the NHS wants to grapple with in terms of improving safety.

“When a doctor prescribes medication, something called decision support will show if there are any contra-indications, for example, and that will make it safer.

“The system will have all the patient’s information programmed in it and it will help nurses know when to dispense drugs.

“It’s good for safety and continuity and making sure the treatment is effective. It’s going to help in the long term.”

GWH is still at the tendering stage, which should be completed next month.