New prescription regulations announced

GPs can now send prescriptions electronically
  • Deborah Condon

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has signed new regulations to deal with prescriptions during the COVID-19 emergency.

The regulations will allow GPs to electronically transfer prescriptions to pharmacies via an approved electronic system - the HSE's Healthmail system.

Prior to this, a paper copy of a prescription had to be given to a pharmacy.

This provision will reduce the need for patients to attend their GP surgery to collect prescriptions during the emergency.

The Department of Health emphasised that other methods of prescription transfer, such as private emails or faxes, will not be recognised as legitimate prescriptions.

As part of the new regulations, the maximum period of validity of a prescription has also been increased from six months to nine months, as of the date specified on the prescription.

Some temporary changes to the way in which prescriptions can be repeated are also being introduced. This will enable pharmacists to ensure the continuity of care of patients without necessarily requiring a new prescription.

Where it is the professional judgement of the pharmacist that it is safe, appropriate and necessary for the continued treatment of the person for a further supply to be made, and it is unreasonable at the time for the person to obtain a new prescription, then the pharmacist can make further supplies against existing prescriptions for certain types of medicines.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and the Medical Council will be issuing joint guidance for pharmacists and prescribers in relation to these amendments.

"We are asking people to stay home, but we know many people will still require access to important medicines and that is why we are introducing these measures.

"However, I also want to remind patients and the general public not to seek supplies of medicines over and above their normal requirements. Doing so will hamper the supply of medicines for others," Minister Harris said.

He added that this is "a significant step and will help us in our efforts to slow the spread of this virus".

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has described the new regulations as "sensible and necessary".

"This will relieve some of the pressures on our GPs, pharmacists and patients in accessing prescriptions, cut down on unnecessary contact and eliminate the need for paper prescriptions. It makes solid practical sense," commented IPU secretary general, Darragh O'Loughlin. 



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