The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) for NHS England has been extended to take in Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs.
NHS Digital, which runs the service, said the move follows a successful trial of the function, which began last October, across 64 GP practices across England.
Previously the service could only be used for Schedule 4 and 5 drugs, which are subject to less stringent controls. Schedule 1 drugs cannot be prescribed at all.
The move reflects the intent to increase the use of the EPS and reduce the traditional reliance on paper prescriptions in the NHS.
GP practices will be able to send all Schedule 2 and 3 drugs, except oral liquid methadone, electronically via the EPS. It represents a demonstration of growing confidence in the system as they have a greater potential for abuse and dependency than those for which prescriptions have previously been issued through the system.
Among the changes it entails are that pharmacies will no longer receive split prescriptions for GPs, which should reduce the number of patients who have both paper and electronic prescriptions.
NHS Digital said the benefits will include reducing the administrative burden on GP practices and pharmacies, improved security and helping pharmacists to ensure patients receive the right drugs.
Patients who have not used the EPS also have the right to opt in.
Dr Vishen Ramkisson, senior clinical lead for digital medicines and pharmacy at NHS Digital, said: “This will make a particular difference to those who need controlled drugs the most, such as those nearing end of life who use this medication to manage pain and control unpleasant symptoms.
“More efficient processes and fewer visits to drop off paper prescriptions will help make sure these patients can be more comfortable. It will mean a better experience for patients and more efficient services for dispensers and prescribers.
“The pilot has completed with excellent results, making us confident to roll out the process nationally.”
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