Problems accessing the Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) service

We have been contacted by people who have been having problems getting through to the POD on the telephone especially around Bank Holidays. Callers report long waits and having to make repeated calls to get through.
Two elderly women sitting in a pharmacy waiting for their prescription

The POD is a service that some GP practices use to manage and process repeat prescriptions, more details are available here, Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) - Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCG (shropshiretelfordandwrekinccg.nhs.uk).

We took your experiences to the Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin NHS Clinical Commissioning Group who run the POD.

They told us that they are aware of the problems and explained that the pandemic had a huge impact on the number of calls they were receiving. When the pandemic started many GP practices were unable to carry on processing paper repeat prescriptions and so all patients were directed to use the POD, this led to a very large increase in the volume of calls. At the same time the ability of the service to increase the number of staff working in the POD was restricted by the physical constraints of the buildings and the need for social distancing.

The POD introduced the ability to order repeat prescriptions by email in an effort to free up capacity in the telephone system for those who are unable to use email. Many people are now using email but the hoped for decrease in demand on the telephone system has not been achieved with overall demand increasing. The service will be introducing a web based process to order prescriptions to help with demand.

The service is currently in the process of moving to new premises and will then be able to increase staff capacity to answer calls therefore reducing call waiting times.

Some people have raised the issue of callers having to pay for calls to the POD and how the cost of calls can mount up when callers are having to wait to be answered. The service uses a 0333 number which means that call costs are equitable across the county but there are no plans to introduce a free phone number. Call charges should reduce when call times reduce.

We hope the these measures reduce telephone waits and we encourage people to continue to share their experiences, good and not so good, so we can continue to feed these back to the service to help inform the development of the service.
— Lynn Cawley, Chief Officer, Healthwatch Shropshire

Update - 2 August 2021

Following feedback that the window of opportunity to order a repeat prescription through the service, no more than 7 days before the medication ran out, was too narrow and causing problems we contacted the service to ask if the limit could be adjusted and have been told that the window has been extended to 10 days.

Update - 3 August 2021

News from Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group

Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) under pressure due to staff shortage

Patients across the county are being advised that the Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) service for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin is currently operating at low capacity due to staff shortages. To remedy the situation, additional members of staff are being brought in to work through the backlog of requests but patients will unfortunately experience longer waiting times as a result. 

Stephanie Munro-Jones, POD Service Manager at NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:

“Please be assured that we are doing all we can to ensure that the service is not destabilised. Despite staff working around the clock to process email requests, patients are likely to experience increased waiting times as well as longer email turnarounds.

“I would like to apologise to everyone affected and extend my thanks to our patients for their understanding whilst we work hard to fix the issue.

“Patients are currently being asked to contact the POD team by email in the first instance, unless this option is not available. This will allow for more vulnerable patients to be prioritised via the phone lines.

“The POD email address is shropshire.pod@nhs.net for the Shropshire team and tw.pod@nhs.net for the Telford and Wrekin team. For information on what to include in your email request, please visit the Shropshire Telford and Wrekin CCG website.

“GP practices across the county have been informed of the issue and are aware that there may be additional patients requiring practice input in order to place medication requests.”

For vulnerable patients who do not have access to email, either for themselves or someone on their behalf, please be advised that there are alternative means of requesting medication including Patient Access (login generated directly by your practice) or by dropping off your paper prescription at your GP practice in person.

For extremely clinically vulnerable patients, alternative methods can be arranged directly with your practice.

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