Electronic prescribing delays criticised by audit office

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Media captionWAO director David Thomas said NHS staff were also frustrated at the delay

The NHS in Wales must speed up plans to introduce an electronic system for prescribing drugs, a Wales Audit Office report has said.

It said a detailed, time-bound plan for implementation should be outlined as the move could improve safety and efficiency.

A plan for the system has been in place since 2007 but prescribing is still paper-based in Welsh hospitals.

The scheme must be in place by 2023, but the WAO wants it brought in sooner.

WAO director David Thomas said a number of the NHS staff auditors spoken to cited "frustration" that it was taking so long to bring in an electronic prescribing system in Wales.

He said implementing one would result in a "much more effective and efficient system within hospitals".

The report also looked at other areas of prescribing and found there were some safety issues caused by incomplete medicine information on paper drug charts, including some which did not have information about patients' drug allergies.

There were also some instances where notes were unclear about whether patients had received the doses they were due.

The report also looked at how new medicines were chosen and although there is a national process for appraising new drugs, it found there were three instances where decisions had been taken outside that process.

The WAO would not provide details of the cases, but Mr Thomas said where new drugs are given there needed to be very clear reasons for doing so.

The report also found that while NHS Wales was taking steps to improve prescribing in the community, there was scope to further improve quality and costs.

It said health bodies were working together well to improve the way medicines are prescribed and managed, and in hospitals, pharmacy services were rated highly by staff.

However, auditors highlighted problems with medicine storage and gaps in information about drugs.

A Welsh Government spokesman said it was pleased the report recognised there were many good aspects of medicines management in Wales.

It added that since last year, it had made good progress on a number of earlier recommendations by the auditor general, and it would respond to the latest advisories shortly.

Responding to the report, Nick Ramsay, chairman of the assembly's public accounts committee, said it showed there was "still much to do to ensure the safe and cost effective use of medicines in Wales".

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