Connecting for Health claimed in January that its electronic prescription service had ‘begun the year in style' after a landmark 10 millionth prescription was issued under the system.
But a response to a House of Commons question revealed that just 122,895 of the prescriptions had been dispensed since they were introduced in 2005.
The discrepancy arose because most pharmacies have not been set up to receive the electronic prescriptions, although GP practices are able to send them.
As a result, the majority of prescriptions are still being dispensed via the paper-based system.
The failure to dispense electronic prescriptions has not prevented patients from obtaining medicines. But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley, who tabled the written question, said the introduction of electronic prescriptions had been mismanaged: ‘Although GP practices are issuing the prescriptions, pharmacists have not been set up to receive them.'
The problem demonstrated a failure to engage with front-line NHS staff, he said.
The government ‘trumpeted this as a major success but it is two years late with just a fraction of the total issued electronically being dispensed electronically', Mr Lansley said.
‘This is another example of how the government continues to financially mismanage the NHS, with money being wasted on poor delivery.'
GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said the slow roll-out had been frustrating.
‘The key issue now is that large numbers of pharmacies don't have the facilities to read the information, so we are not reaping the benefits of electronic transfer of prescriptions,' he said.
Electronic prescriptions boost safety by cutting errors that can occur when pharmacies manually enter data from paper prescriptions, but this benefit was not yet being achieved, he added.
Tim Donohoe, group programme director for the electronic prescription service for Connecting for Health, said 42 per cent of pharmacies now had the software needed.
What do you think? Comment below or email us at GPletters@haymarket.com