New legislation on controlled drugs supply during pandemic

Today the Government passed legislation which allows pharmacists to provide controlled drugs to patients who have previously been prescribed them, without the need for a new prescription.  

The legislation enables patients to continue to receive access to the medicines they need directly from a pharmacist, under exceptional circumstances. These include the closure of GP practices or other services in an area because of COVID-19, and where the patient’s health is at risk. To maintain treatment and reduce harm, it also allows pharmacists to vary in the interval between each time the medicine can be supplied, after consultation with the prescribing service. 

The legislation can only be activated by an announcement from a Secretary of State. It will only apply in a specific location and for a limited time. Once the issue triggering the announcement is resolved, the new measures will be withdrawn and usual practice will apply.

RPS President Sandra Gidley said:

“We welcome this legislation to maintain patient access to treatment when the usual means of prescribing and accessing it are unavailable. This will bring relief to patients needing ongoing treatment for palliative care or substance misuse therapy.

“The flexibilities the legislation provides empowers pharmacists to provide the right care for patients during the pandemic.

“We are continuing to talk to the Government and the NHS about how frontline pharmacists are playing a critical role supporting patients and vulnerable groups during COVID-19.

“Now the legislation has been published, we will shortly provide professional guidance for pharmacists who may need to supply controlled drugs under the new measures.”

Read our guidance on the new legislation.