NHS Digital has launched a pilot scheme that could see more than 95% of GP prescriptions processed electronically, which it says will save the NHS time and money.

Eight GP practices across England are piloting the change, with more planning to trial it in 2019.

If the pilot is successful, the new functionality will be made available to all GP practices in England, NHS Digital said.

Until now, patients could only have their prescriptions processed electronically if they had chosen a regular ‘nominated’ dispenser, but the latest improvement to the Electronic Prescription Services, known as Phase 4, will allow prescriptions for all patients to be sent using the more efficient, digital system.

Electronic prescriptions reduce the amount of paper processing required by GPs, pharmacists and the NHS Business Services Authority estimates that they could save the NHS £300 million a year once fully rolled out.

“The launch of this pilot is excellent news for GPs, pharmacists and patients and is a further important step towards the digital future for NHS prescribing and dispensing,” said Ian Lowry, director for Digital Medicines and Pharmacies at NHS Digital.

“Every single prescription that is sent electronically, rather than via paper, saves money for the NHS as less time and valuable resource is spent processing and storing the paper prescriptions.”

“The electronic prescription service is already reducing the NHS administrative burden whilst improving patient care, and this latest development is another step towards a more efficient digital NHS,” added Keith Farrar, senior responsible owner for Digital Medicines at NHS England.

The news comes just a week after Roche UK revealed that 82% of Generation Z, the age group encompassing 16 to 24 year olds, want to see the NHS introduce digital solutions to better manage their health and improve care.