Expert Taskforce and Prescription Extension – Information for Pharmacists

In July 2023, the Minister for Health established the Expert Taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists.  Here you will find information for pharmacists and pharmacy teams about recommendations from the Expert Taskforce and their implementation. This includes information about the implementation of the first recommendation of the Expert Taskforce, which relates to prescription extension. 

Expert Taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland

An Expert Taskforce is examining the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland. You will find information for pharmacists and pharmacy teams about the recommendations of the taskforce and their implementation below.

We have also created a number of FAQs to help answer questions you may have about what this means for you and your practice. 

About the Expert Taskforce 

The 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 has been asked to consider how pharmacists can expand upon their present scope of practice for the benefit of patients, the public and the wider health system. 

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 first recommendation of the Expert Taskforce was accepted by the Minister for Health in November 2023. Legislative changes required to give effect to this recommendation were introduced on 1 March 2024 and enable: 

  • Prescribers to issue prescriptions with a legal validity of up to 12 months if they deem it clinically appropriate. This change takes effect from 1 March 2024. 
  • Pharmacists to extend and dispense certain prescriptions from six months up to a maximum of 12 months where appropriate. This change takes effect from 1 September as it only applies to prescriptions written on or after 1 March 2024.  

Further information about the Expert Taskforce, along with the interim report containing details about the first recommendation, is available on the Department of Health website

Amendments have been made to the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 73/2024 - Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2024 (irishstatutebook.ie) and the Regulation of Retail Pharmacy Businesses Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 74/2024 - Regulation of Retail Pharmacy Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2024 (irishstatutebook.ie

How will PSI support pharmacists with the implementation of this legislative change? 

The PSI has been actively supporting the work of the Expert Taskforce since its establishment. The PSI Registrar & Chief Officer, Joanne Kissane, is a member of the Expert Taskforce, and the PSI is also represented on a Taskforce subgroup focused on implementing the first recommendation. 

We have also been engaging with several key stakeholders as we prepare to support pharmacists with the safe implementation of the first recommendation. In December of last year, we ran a workshop with pharmacists to explore the regulatory tools, supports and information, such as guidance, that may be needed to support pharmacists in their decision-making when extending prescriptions for patients. We have met with the IIOP and IPU to discuss the implementation of the recommendation, including resources to support pharmacists. 

In addition, we will develop updated guidelines to support pharmacists with the safe implementation of the first recommendation. This will be available in advance of 1 September to support you and your teams as you prepare to accommodate this change into your practice. 

Extending the validity of prescriptions up to 12 months 

The first recommendation from the Taskforce is to enable pharmacists to extend the validity period of certain prescriptions for up to a maximum of 12 months when, in the pharmacist’s professional opinion, based on their knowledge, skills and competence, it is safe and appropriate to do so. 

The decision to extend will be subject to person-centred criteria such as the current stability of the patient’s clinical regime, continuity of care and lack of relevant change. The recommendation also enables prescribers to prescribe certain medicines for up to 12 months, where appropriate. 

What does this mean for my practice? 

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. 

The changes mean that: 

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 

The PSI will be issuing updated guidance in advance of 1 September that will support pharmacists to safely incorporate this change to their practice. 

On 21 February 2024, we ran a webinar in partnership with the Irish Institute of Pharmacy (IIOP). 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). We also provided information on the broader 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

Exclusions to prescription extension 

There are situations where prescription extension for long-term medication will not be appropriate or is not allowed in legislation. Examples of these include: 

  • Where the medication is a controlled drug listed in Schedule 2,3, or 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017. 
  • Where the prescriber has included the instruction on the prescription: ‘Do not extend’. 
  • When a pharmacist, in their professional judgement, does not consider it safe or appropriate to extend the prescription. 
  • Where a patient chooses not to have their prescription extended. 

Other medicines may be excluded for operational or reimbursement reasons. Further information about excluded medicines will be provided by the HSE PCRS. 

Further information and future work of the Expert Taskforce 

The Expert Taskforce is made up of 13 experts with experience in pharmacy education and practice, healthcare policy and delivery, and other related disciplines. The Taskforce first met on 29 August 2023 and continues to meet fortnightly. 

Since submitting the first recommendation, the Expert Taskforce have been progressing the next phase of their work, which is to advise on a comprehensive approach to facilitate prescribing by pharmacists. You can read more about the work of the Taskforce on the Department of Health website

Irish Patient receiving prescription in pharmacy
Expert Taskforce and Prescription Extension – FAQs

We have answered some frequently asked quesitons (FAQs) for pharmacists on the Expert Taskforce and Prescription Extension