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16 June 2020
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GPIT Advice on Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions

In an attempt to relieve pressure on GPs and pharmacists and support patient care in the community, the Minister for Health signed, on Friday April 03 2020, two statutory instruments relating to prescribing. These are temporary amendments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The full details of the statutory instruments and the associated briefing notes are available from the references below.

This current update deals with the changes to GP work practices made possible by these amendments.


What has changed?

GPs can use Healthmail to send prescriptions to a pharmacy. Where prescriptions are sent electronically via Healthmail, there is no requirement for the signed paper prescription to follow at a later date. The prescription can be in the body of the Healthmail message or sent as an attached image. All the usual necessary information needs to be present in the prescription. This applies to both private and GMS prescriptions and includes prescriptions for Schedule 2, 3 and 4 Controlled Drugs.

GMS prescriptions can now be printed on A4 plain paper and sent as paper or in electronic format to pharmacies.


How this changes GP work practices

Where your GP practice software supports Healthmail for prescribing, for example in Health One or CompleteGP, the GP can send a prescription directly to the patient's pharmacy via Healthmail.

Where your GP practice software system does not support Healthmail for prescribing, for example Socrates and Helix Practice Manager, there are two options:

  • Option 1: is to print out all prescriptions, including GMS scripts, on plain A4 paper, batch these by pharmacy, scan all the prescriptions for a particular pharmacy and send these off to that pharmacy as an attached file via Healthmail. The batch scanning needs to allow the pharmacist to print out each prescription on a separate page, to support their work processes. You need to know the Healthmail address of the pharmacy. You can search for this under the 'People' tab in Healthmail. You can access Healthmail at You can sign up for Healthmail or get support at
  • Option 2: Involves a workaround that is in the process of being documented by GPIT. If using a Windows 10 computer, you may use their snipping tool to take a copy of the previewed prescription image. Simultaneously, press the windows logo key + shift + Sthen use your mouse to highlight the prescription. The image selected will be copied to your clipboard and pasted into a Healthmail message. The prescription image should show the date, name, address and GMS number of patient (if applicable) and prescription items. The Healthmail message should indicate whether this is a single or repeat prescription, and also contain the name, address and IMC number of the prescriber. It is possible to set these as a default signature in Healthmail. It is hoped that Clanwilliam Health will facilitate a more user-friendly interface to prescribing via Healthmail in all its software systems.


Other Changes for Pharmacists

  • The maximum validity for a prescription is now 9 months.
  • The number of repeats of a prescription has increased from 6 months to 9 months.
  • A prescriber can request a pharmacist to dispense an emergency supply of medicines to a patient, where he or she is not in a position to provide the prescription immediately. The prescription, either electronic or paper must follow within 72 hours.
  • The pharmacist can dispense an emergency supply at the request of a patient.

Please note the changes in the four bullet points above do not apply to Schedule 2 or 3 Controlled Drugs. For more details on Schedule 2 or 3 Controlled Drugs, please read the advice from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, referenced below.