NPA flags concerns about prescription direction and patient apps

22 May 2020

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has written to NHS officials and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), following allegations of prescription direction involving patient apps.

Concerns have been raised that apps used to order repeat prescriptions are automatically directing patients to specific pharmacies without patients’ knowledge or consent.

The NPA is now inviting its members to send evidence of prescription direction involving apps to the NPA campaigns team at Evidence could include screen shots and reports of confusion caused to patients.  The evidence will be compiled into a report to present to regulators.

NPA Chief Executive, Mark Lyonette, said:

“Prescription direction impairs patient choice and undermines free and fair competition between pharmacies. It can damage relationships between patients and healthcare professionals as well as hinder trust and cooperation between healthcare professionals.

“The NPA has been alerting regulators to the damage caused by prescription direction for many years. The growing use of apps creates another dimension to this issue and needs to be addressed.

“We support healthcare innovation and we recognise the value of digital technology to help improve patient care. However, patients should always come first and technology should not be used to undermine patient choice and fair competition between healthcare providers.”

It is five years since the GPhC and other regulators issued a joint warning against conflicts of interest and highlighted prescription direction as a problem specifically.

The NHS Constitution informs patients that ‘You have the right to make choices about the services commissioned by NHS bodies and to information to support these choices’.