Expert Taskforce and Prescription Extension – FAQs

We will continue to update these FAQs as further questions arise and as changes recommended by the Expert Taskforce are embedded in practice. 

The Expert Taskforce to Support the Expansion of the Role of Pharmacists 

An Expert Taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland was established in July 2023 by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD. The Taskforce is charged with considering and examining ways in which pharmacists can expand upon their present scope of practice for the benefit of patients, the public and the wider health system.  
   
You can learn more about the Expert Taskforce, including the group members and progress to date, on the Department of Health website

In November 2023, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, T.D., accepted the first recommendation of the Expert Taskforce.  
 

This first recommendation will enable pharmacists to extend the validity period of certain prescriptions from a period of six months up to a maximum of 12 months. The decision on extending a prescription will be subject to person-centred criteria such as the current stability of a patient’s clinical regime, continuity of care and lack of relevant change.  
   
The legislation to effect this change was implemented on 1 March 2024. Pharmacists will be able to extend prescriptions from 1 September 2024.  
   
The Department of Health will conduct a review of the first recommendation after 12 months of its implementation into practice to assess whether it is achieving its objective in alignment with governance policies and procedures.  

The PSI will keep you informed as we learn more through direct emails, on our website, and via webinars. To further facilitate understanding and discussion, PSI ran a webinar in partnership with the IIOP on 21 February.  
   
During the webinar, PSI provided information on the expected legislative changes to facilitate the first recommendation of the Taskforce (to enable pharmacists to extend prescriptions). It also included information on the overall work of the Expert Taskforce, with insights from the Chair of the Expert Taskforce, Dr. Pat O’Mahony, and PSI Registrar Joanne Kissane. You can access a recording of the webinar on the IIOP website.  
   
We have developed a number of resources for pharmacists to support you in extending prescriptions, including updated Guidelines. These will be available well in advance of 1 September to support pharmacists and pharmacies in preparing to provide this new service.  
   
You can learn more about the Expert Taskforce, including the group members and progress to date, on the Department of Health website. You can also access the Interim Report of the Taskforce, which provides an overview of the first recommendation.  

To further facilitate understanding and discussion, the PSI ran a webinar in partnership with the IIOP on 21 February. 
 
During the webinar, the PSI provided information on the expected legislative changes to facilitate the first recommendation of the Taskforce (to enable pharmacists to extend prescriptions). It also included information on the overall work of the Expert Taskforce, with insights from the Chair of the Expert Taskforce, Pat O’Mahony, and PSI Registrar Joanne Kissane. You can access a recording of the webinar on the IIOP website


Prescription Extension – Pharmacy Practice Queries

Amendments have been made to the Regulation of Retail Pharmacy Businesses Regulations 2008 and the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003 to allow prescriptions to be valid for up to 12 months and allow pharmacists to extend a prescription for more than 6 months after the date specified on the prescription.   

The changes mean that:  

From 1 March 2024, prescriptions can be dispensed for up to 12 months from the date they are written where the prescriber has indicated this on the prescription.  

From 1 September 2024, pharmacists can extend prescriptions written for six months for up to a further six months where, in their professional judgement, it is safe and appropriate to do so, and once defined criteria have been met. These criteria include communication with the patient or their representative, consideration of the suitability of the medication, record keeping of the decision to extend, and notification to the original prescriber.  

Where a prescriber does not wish for a prescription to be considered for extension, they can write ‘Do Not Extend’ on the prescription.  

From 1 March 2024, prescriptions can be dispensed for up to 12 months from the date they are written where the prescriber has indicated this on the prescription.  

From 1 September 2024, pharmacists can extend prescriptions written for six months for up to a further six months where, in their professional judgement, it is safe and appropriate to do so, and once defined criteria have been met.  

From 1 September 2024, pharmacists can make a decision to extend certain prescriptions written for six months for up to a maximum of 12 months, if, in their professional judgement, they consider it safe and appropriate to do so. These criteria include communication with the patient or their representative, consideration of the suitability of the medication, record keeping of the decision to extend, and notification to the original prescriber.  

It is worth noting a pharmacist does not need to extend up to the maximum of 12 months.  The period of extension can be less than this if it is considered to be more appropriate for the patient.  

Pharmacists may decide that following consultation with the patient or representative that extension may not be suitable and may refuse the request for extension. It is still important that records are kept following this consultation.  

Further information can be found in the Guidelines to Support Medicines Therapy Review Counselling and Prescription Extension.  

No, pharmacists have been given authority to extend certain prescriptions up to 12 months if they were originally written for 6 months. Therefore, prescriptions written for periods shorter than 6 months would not be suitable for extension.  

Extending prescriptions is intended for those patients with chronic conditions. Pharmacists should use their professional judgement in reviewing a prescription to assess if the medication is for a chronic condition to decide if it is suitable for extension.  

Yes. Temporary provisions introduced during COVID-19 extended the validity of prescriptions from six to nine months and enable pharmacists to make additional supplies of prescription-only medicines to patients from an existing prescription. This additional authority to pharmacists must only be used where, in the pharmacist’s professional judgement, continued treatment is required, and it is safe and appropriate to make an additional supply. There is a provision in the 1 March 2024 legislative amendments to allow for this situation to continue for prescriptions written before 1 March 2024 until pharmacists are enabled to extend prescriptions under the new provision.  

There is no specific list of medicines suitable for extension.  However, extension of prescriptions for Controlled Drugs specified in Schedule 2, 3 or 4 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 173 of 2017) is not permitted.  

Other medicinal products may be excluded for patient safety or operational and reimbursement reasons. The HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) released a circular on Phase 1 recommendation of the Expert Taskforce.  This highlights the medicines which would not be suitable for extension by pharmacists.  These include High Tech medicines and HIV Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) products.   It is important that pharmacists remain up to date with any such exclusions that may be added to this list over time.  

As referenced in the above circular, it is permissible for hospital clinicians to prescribe up to 12 months of a High-Tech medicine.  

No, extension of prescriptions for Controlled Drugs specified in Schedule 2, 3 or 4 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 173 of 2017) is not permitted.  

A pharmacist should refer a patient to a doctor rather than extending a prescription under the following circumstances:  

  • The medicine is not suitable for extension, for example is it a controlled drug.   
  • The prescriber has written on the prescription ‘do not extend’.
  • The pharmacist, in their professional judgement, does not consider it safe or appropriate to extend the prescription.   
  • Following the consultation with the patient or representative the pharmacist decides that a review with the prescriber may is more appropriate/required.  

There is a defined criteria set out in legislation which must be met when judging if a prescription should be extended for a patient. These criteria include communication with the patient or their representative, consideration of the suitability of the medication, record keeping of the decision to extend, and notification to the original prescriber. Pharmacists should use their professional judgement from the information gained in the criteria above when considering if a medicine is suitable for extension or not.  

Some medicines will need regular monitoring. Specific monitoring requirements for each medication can be found in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) of that medication.   

HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) released a circular on Phase 1 recommendation of the Expert Taskforce.  This highlights some medicines which are not suitable for extension such as High-tech medicines and HIV Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment.   

Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) is an important consideration for a pharmacist when considering whether to extend a prescription. In the majority of circumstances antimicrobials are prescribed for one off supply and would not usually be suitable for extension. Some patients are prescribed a prophylactic antibiotic for certain conditions which may be long-term. Pharmacists should use their professional judgement in these circumstances and consider the needs of the patient along with antimicrobial resistance when it comes to deciding if the medicine is suitable for extension.  

Yes, in keeping with the Code of Conduct, if a pharmacist feels it is in the best interest of the patient that a medicine is not dispensed, then they should communicate this to the patient and contact the patient’s prescriber as appropriate. This is something that should already be standard practice for pharmacist as part of the clinical review of a prescription and does not relate specifically to prescription extension.   

Pharmacists should use the information available to them when making a decision about extending a prescription. This includes reviewing the patient’s medication history available in the pharmacy.    

It will also involve a discussion with the patient about their medication and condition.    

The pharmacist should consider information gathered and use their professional judgement to consider if it is safe and, in the patient’s best interest to extend the prescription, or if referral back to the prescriber is the more appropriate course of action.  

Monitoring requirements for specific medicines can be found in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) of the medicine.  Pharmacists should also consult and be familiar with relevant guidance and best practice in the management and monitoring of certain conditions, such as those set out in the HSE National Clinical Programmes.  

The PSI has produced principle-based guidelines to help pharmacists in their decision making, and to support compliance with the legislation.    

The IIOP offers a range of information and resources for pharmacists, including continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities, publications, and events.  Please refer to the IIOP website  for training programmes, information events, and training information that may support you in your practice.  

No, the role of the pharmacist remains the same regardless of the period for which the prescription has been written.  At each dispensing the pharmacist should continue to carry out a clinical check to ensure the prescription remains suitable for the patient.

There is defined criteria for pharmacists which must be met when determining of a prescription is suitable for extension. These criteria include communication with the patient or their representative, consideration of the suitability of the medication, record keeping of the decision to extend, and notification to the original prescriber. It is also important that pharmacists ensure they are adhering to the Code of Conduct and applying professional judgement when considering whether to extend the validity of prescriptions.  

  

A pharmacist should have access to the patient’s medication record held within the pharmacy which will detail previous dispensing of medication and any changes to medication in the past. The pharmacist should be able to use this as well as having a consultation with the patient to decide of a medication is suitable for extension or not,  If a pharmacist judges that in their professional opinion, they need more information such as blood test results then they should communicate this clearly to the patient as the reason they cannot extend and make notes in the patient’s medical record of the same interaction.  

Pharmacists should ensure that they are working within their clinical competence as per the Code of Conduct in delivering services. If a pharmacist believes a test such as a blood pressure check would assist in the consultation on whether to extend a prescription and they are clinically competent to do so, then provided they have consent from the patient they can complete the test and record the results. A pharmacist, in exercising their professional judgement, may consider it appropriate to communicate the results of such tests to the original prescriber when communicating the decision to extend.  

Those in governance roles have a responsibility to ensure that services offered are appropriately resourced. Further information is set out in the PSI Guidance on Pharmacy Governance Roles. Risk should be appropriately managed, and procedures should be developed to support the pharmacy in delivering safe, quality pharmacy services and patient-centred care.   

Consultation lengths will differ depending on a range of factors including the type and number of medicine(s) the patient would like to be extended. A pharmacist should ensure during the consultation they have enough information that they need to make a decision.    

It is ultimately the choice of the pharmacist when deciding to extend a prescription or not.   

All pharmacies in Ireland are required to hold professional indemnity insurance cover as part of the pharmacy’s registration requirements. Pharmacy owners are advised to clarify the status of their indemnity cover and pharmacists should be clear about the cover in place in each pharmacy where they practise.  

Pharmacists use their professional judgement and clinical expertise in their everyday practice, while observing the Code of Conduct, relevant legislation, practice standards and guidance. This may involve balancing different responsibilities and priorities. Pharmacists are personally accountable for their actions and must be in a position to justify any decision made. While the PSI will consider complaints relating to ‘professional misconduct’, this does not include an act, omission or pattern of conduct that consists of a, wrongly formed, but honestly formed, professional judgment.  You can read more about the complaints which the PSI consider.  

The Expert Taskforce and PSI are aware of and acknowledge this potential issue.   

One of the recommendations of the Expert Taskforce is that operational supports and infrastructure should be facilitated to evolve to reduce any undue administrative burden, optimise communication, and facilitate reporting and feedback between professions.   

The Department of Health and HSE are working collaboratively to improve digital health infrastructure across the health system, including for pharmacy. It is expected that these changes will introduce significant efficiencies and improve information sharing and access for those involved in the care of patients.  

The Expert Taskforce has recommended to the Department of Health that operational supports and infrastructure should be facilitated to evolve to reduce any undue administrative burden, optimise communication, and facilitate reporting and feedback between professions.   

It is important however that appropriate records are maintained for patients who have had their prescription extended and for this decision to be communicated to the original prescriber.  It is also important for the decision to be recorded where a pharmacist, in their professional judgement, does not consider it appropriate to extend a prescription. 

Yes, a pharmacist is required to notify the prescriber within seven days following a decision to extend.  


Prescription Extension - Training and Support

You will not be required to undertake specific training to extend a prescription. The PSI is engaging with the IIOP to deliver webinars relating to the implementation of the Expert Taskforce Phase 1 recommendations on prescription extension on 28 August and 11 September.   

The IIOP will also be making available case studies, decision making tools and resources to support pharmacists with this practice change.   

The IIOP will also be holding online interactive workshops for pharmacists which will focus on the practical application of the toolkits and resources using case studies relevant to practice. 

There are no changes to the existing system of CPD, and its requirements, as a result of the legislative changes which allow for pharmacists to extend a prescription.    

See also ‘Will I be required to undertake specific training to extend prescriptions and who will provide this training’.  

The PSI has developed guidelines to support pharmacists with prescription extension. The guidelines offer a principle-based framework to give flexibility with implementation in practice. They detail key responsibilities of all pharmacists, including those in governance roles, regarding medicine therapy review, counselling and extending the validity of prescriptions.  

In addition to the guidelines, a number of other supports will be made available through the IIOP for pharmacists including webinars and online workshops on prescription extension.  These will provide further support pharmacists in practice. The IIOP will provide updates information via email and through their website about these supports.

An appropriate risk assessment should be carried out by pharmacists, including those in governance roles, for every service that they are offering patients. It is important that pharmacies have robust governance arrangements in place to support delivery of prescription extension within the pharmacy. Managing risk and commitment to continuous improvement is one of the principles in PSI Guidance on Pharmacy Governance Roles.    


Prescription Extension - Communication

The Department of Health is working collaboratively with a number of key stakeholders to support awareness among the public and prescribers of these changes. A subgroup of the Expert Taskforce was established to focus on the implementation of the first recommendation of the Taskforce. The subgroup includes representatives from the PSI, the Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and the Dental Council.  Communication activity is a key consideration of this group.  

A dedicated webpage for patients and the public has been created by the Department of Health that includes example scenarios for patients. The PSI has also created a dedicated webpage on the Expert Taskforce and prescription extension to provide information for patients and the public. The PSI will continue to work with the Department of Health and other key stakeholders as part of our role in supporting the Expert Taskforce and commitment to expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists.  

It is important that a pharmacist records information from the consultation with the patient and the reason(s) for extension. This can then be communicated to the prescriber to explain the rationale for extension, if needed.  Pharmacists and prescribers should decide collaboratively what the appropriate course of action should be, ensuring that they are always acting in the patient’s best interest.  

This has been communicated on the PSI dedicated webpage on the Expert Taskforce and prescription extension. It states that from 1 September 2024, pharmacists can decide to extend certain prescriptions that have been written for six months and continue to dispense them for another six months. There is a dedicated government website with information for members of the public which states that if a GP had written a 6-month prescription after 1 March 2024 then it can be extended for 12 months when the prescription is due to end upon review by a pharmacist.  

It is important for pharmacists to explain to a patient why in their opinion as a healthcare professional they do not think it is safe or appropriate to extend a prescription and to direct the patient to the most appropriate next step, for example, to see their doctor for a check-up. 


General Queries

The PSI shared information about prescription extension with registered pharmacists once it was received from the Expert Taskforce and the Department of Health in November 2023.  The PSI also committed to ensuring guidance was issued to pharmacists in advance of this change impacting their practice.  A dedicated resource for pharmacists and their teams is also available on the PSI website.  

The PSI is working with the IIOP and other relevant stakeholders to provide this training to pharmacists as soon as possible.  

Yes, as per the Expert Taskforce recommendation set out in the interim report, ‘The Department of Health should oversee a review of this recommendation after 12 months of its implementation into practice to determine whether it is achieving its goals in accordance with good governance policies and procedures’. 

The work of the Expert Taskforce has been divided into two phases: 

Phase 1: Empowering pharmacists to extend prescriptions. 

Phase 2: Empowering pharmacists to prescribe within their scope of practice. 

The work being done by the expert taskforce on Phase 2: Empowering pharmacists to prescribe within their scope of practice is almost complete and recommendations were presented to the Minister for Health in July 2024. 

Counter assistants with pharmacists
Expert Taskforce and Prescription Extension – Information for Pharmacists

Visit our dedicated page for pharmacists to find out more about the Expert Taskforce and prescription extension