Inpatient prescribing systems used in NHS Acute Trusts across England: a managerial perspective

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The individualised patient prescription chart, either paper or electronic, is an integral part of communication between healthcare professionals. The aim of this study is to ascertain the extent to which different prescribing systems are used for inpatient care in acute hospitals in England and explore chief pharmacists' opinions and experiences with respect to electronic prescribing and medicines administration (EPMA) systems.


Audio-recorded, semistructured telephone interviews with chief pharmacists or their nominated representatives of general acute hospital trusts across England.


Forty-five per cent (65/146) of the chief pharmacists agreed to participate. Eighteen per cent (12/65) of the participants interviewed stated that their trust had EPMA systems fully or partially implemented on inpatient wards. The most common EPMA system in place was JAC (n=5) followed by MEDITECH (n=3), iSOFT (n=2), PICS (n=1) and one in-house created system. Of the 12 trusts that had EPMA in place, 4 used EPMA on all of their inpatient wards and the remaining 8 had a mixture of paper and EPMA systems in use. Fifty six (86% 56/65) of all participants had consulted the standards for the design of inpatient prescription charts. From the 12 EPMA interviews qualitatively analysed, the regulation required to provide quality patient care is perceived by some to be enforceable with an EPMA system, but that this may affect accuracy and clinical workflow, leading to undocumented, unofficial workarounds that may be harmful.


The majority of inpatient prescribing in hospital continues to use paper-based systems; there was significant diversity in prescribing systems in use. EPMA systems have been implemented but many trusts have retained supplementary paper drug charts, for a variety of medications. Mandatory fields may be appropriate for core prescribing information, but the expansion of their use needs careful consideration.

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