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Paper prescriptions will be phased out in Northern Ireland, following an agreement between the government and HP to develop an e-prescriptions service.

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

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

It is also hoped the system will help stop fraud by cross-referencing patient and prescription information against social security and other records.

Hewlett Packard Northern Ireland has signed an eight year contract with the department 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, an electronic prescription service is being delivered as part of the NHS national IT programme. Under an original schedule, every GP surgery will have access to the service by 2007, but so far the system has not progressed beyond pilot schemes.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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