Guidance

Prescriptions issued in the EEA and Switzerland: guidance for pharmacists

Guidance for pharmacists that will take effect if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

Summary

Leaving the EU with a deal remains the government’s top priority. However, the government will continue with its no-deal preparations to ensure the country is ready for every eventuality.

This guidance takes effect from 31 October 2019, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal. You should continue to dispense European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss prescriptions in line with current guidance until then.

From 31 October, a prescription issued in an EEA member state or Switzerland can be dispensed in the UK if the prescriber is from a profession recognised by this guidance that is legally entitled to issue a prescription of that kind in the country in which the prescription is issued.

Actions for pharmacists

If you are asked to dispense an EEA or Swiss prescription, you should:

  1. identify the prescriber in the same way that you do now. The name, professional qualifications and contact details of the prescriber (including work address, email address and telephone or fax number with the appropriate international prefix) should be clearly stated on the prescription along with the name of the country in which the prescription was issued

  2. refer to the prescribing-approved countries and professions list to check whether:

    • the prescription was issued in an approved country
    • the prescriber is practising in a profession recognised by the UK in relation to that country

You may contact the competent authority in the country in which the prescription was issued in order to check the registration of the prescriber and whether they are authorised to issue a prescription of that kind in that country.

You may dispense the prescription if it has been issued in an approved country on the list and is signed by a qualified prescriber practising in an approved profession on the list.

If the prescription is from a country or prescriber that is not on the list, you should not dispense the prescription and instead use your professional expertise to help the patient.

This does not affect your right to exercise your professional discretion to refuse to dispense a prescription if any of the following apply:

  • it would not ordinarily be dispensed in the UK
  • there are doubts over its authenticity
  • there are concerns about the clinical appropriateness of the medicine(s) for that patient
  • it would cause any issues of health and safety

Emergency supply

There is no change to supplying prescription-only medicines in an emergency at the request of the patient.

Emergency supplies are also possible at the request of a prescriber who is practising in a profession and country recognised by this guidance.

Medicinal products subject to special medical prescription

The rules relating to controlled drugs in the UK have not changed. You must not dispense a controlled drug against an EEA or Swiss prescription.

A controlled drug is a product listed in schedule 1, 2 or 3 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 or in schedule 1, 2 or 3 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002.

You also must not dispense ‘specials’ (unlicensed medicines that are manufactured or procured specifically to meet the special clinical needs of an individual patient) against an EEA or Swiss prescription.

If you are asked to dispense an EEA or Swiss prescription listing a schedule 1 to 3 controlled drug or a special, you should advise the patient about other available treatment(s) or refer them to local health services to get a UK prescription.

Reimbursement

There are no changes to reimbursement. You should dispense prescriptions from approved countries and professions as private prescriptions.

Prescribing-approved countries and professions list

Regulation 214(6A) of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 refers to a list of approved countries and professions for the purpose of the definition of “approved country health professional”.

Prescriptions issued by a prescriber who is practising in a listed profession in a listed country may be recognised in the UK. These professions and countries are:

Approved professions

  • doctors
  • dentists
  • pharmacists
  • nurses
  • physiotherapists
  • chiropodists or podiatrists
  • community nurses
  • optometrists
  • therapeutic radiographers
  • paramedics

Approved countries

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

These lists will be reviewed at least every 3 years. The government will communicate any changes in good time so that pharmacists are able to recognise and dispense prescriptions appropriately.

Published 28 March 2019