New powers to be given to Pharmacists
From 01 March 2024, pharmacists will have a power to extend prescriptions up to a maximum of 12 months for patients, if they feel it is appropriate.
Pharmacists may also decide, following assessment and the exercise of their clinical judgment, to refuse a patient's request for a prescription extension. In addition, there will be certain medications which will not be eligible for a prescription extension such as certain Controlled Drugs and medicines subject to the potential for misuse.
The move follows the establishment of a Taskforce by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in July 2023 to support the expansion of the role of pharmacy. The Taskforce published its first recommendation in November 2023, and this is reflected in the measure to be introduced in the new year.
It is anticipated that the measure will allow flexibility for patients, who may not have to visit a GP for a repeat prescription and will also reduce the burden on GPs in terms of issuing repeat prescriptions. However, it is expected that there will be increased demand placed on pharmacists and pharmacies. It is likely that increased resources to support the measure will be required by pharmacists.
In advance of the new measures taking effect, regulatory guidance and supportive educational material will be required by pharmacists to guide them on best practice in relation to the new measure, in addition to the required legislative amendments.
The Department of Health will oversee a review of the recommendation after one year to determine whether the measure has successfully assisted with achieving the objectives of expansion of the scope of practice of pharmacists, improving access for patients to healthcare and reducing the workload of GPs. We await to see what further recommendations are published by the Taskforce in relation to Phase 2 of its work, Empowering Pharmacists to Prescribe within their scope of Practice.
If you would like any further information or advice, please contact Ciara Hanratty from our Healthcare team.
*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice.