§ Dr. Murrison
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress towards meeting the NHS Plan target for the electronic transmission of prescriptions. 
§ Ms Rosie Winterton
The electronic transmission of prescriptions is one of the core programmes within the national programme for information technology (NPfIT) in the national health service in England. The electronic transmission of prescriptions (ETP) programme will enable prescribers to create and transfer prescription data electronically to a patient's community pharmacist and the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA). As well as being more convenient for the patient (for example in relation to repeat prescriptions), this will improve safety by reducing prescription errors and providing better information at the point of prescribing and dispensing. It will also ensure that information about what has been prescribed and dispensed forms part of each person's NHS care record. In addition, ETP will deliver important administrative improvements.
The NHS Plan did not contain a specific target in relation to the electronic transmission of prescriptions. We are working towards the timetable for implementation contained in "Delivering 21st Century IT Support in the NHS". This stated, "the National Prescriptions Service will be 50 per cent. implemented by December 2005 and fully implemented by December 2007". This work is being taken forward by the NPfIT in the NHS.
Key elements of the electronic transmission of prescriptions system have been procured as part of the recently concluded NHS care records service procurements. Work is now focusing on how community pharmacies can be connected to the system, and how their pharmacy computer systems can be upgraded to comply with the requisite technical specification. It is intended that deployment of the live system will commence in January 2005.