Prescription dispensing intervals are to be extended in Wales, to allow community pharmacists to focus their time on providing more clinical services, the Welsh Government has announced.

Pharmacy contractors in Wales have been asked to begin engaging with local GPs from April to identify patients who could receive their medication every 56 days, instead of every 28 days.

This comes after the Welsh Government commissioned a review into dispensing volumes in community pharmacies.

The review concluded there would be several benefits to pharmacy teams, patients and general practice if the number of prescriptions dispensed by community pharmacies was reduced.

Guidance, published jointly by Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) and the British Medical Association (BMA) this week (8 February), also asked pharmacy contractors to work with GPs to create ‘clear and consistent messaging to patients’ who will experience a change to their prescription dispensing intervals.

Pharmacy contractors will also be involved in identifying patients who should be excluded from change, such as those on medication that requires close monitoring or those who need additional support in taking medication.

Contractors must also identify patients in the same household who could be moved to the extended prescription delivery time together and therefore receive their prescriptions at the same time.

Practices and pharmacies have been encouraged to work together to plan for the change.

‘To reduce duplication ideally community pharmacies in the same locality should meet together with the general practice rather than individually.

‘The responsibility for agreeing the period of treatment lies with the GP and may need to be other than 56 days for a variety of clinical decisions', the guidance explained.

Benefits of extending dispensing intervals

The prescription review, published in 2021, found that reducing dispensing events in pharmacies was likely to release ‘significant amounts of pharmacist time to provide more focused direct patient care through clinical services’.

This finding supports the Welsh Government's plan for pharmacies to offer an extended range of clinical services from next year to help reduce general practice workload.

The review also concluded that patients would benefit from less frequent journeys to a pharmacy to collect prescriptions.

It also said that a change in dispensing frequency would likely have benefits for general practice by reducing the administrative workload involved in generating repeat prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the review also found that there was ‘little evidence' to support a ‘long held view’ that 28-day prescription intervals reduce medicine waste.

Instead, the review said that evidence suggested that shorter intervals may have a ‘negative impact on adherence to treatment’ and that what is needed is a more flexible approach to meet the needs of individuals.

In September, the first minister said that pharmacies were an ‘economic driver’ that will help Wales recover from Covid.

In 2018, RPS Wales and the Government published Pharmacy: Delivering a Healthier Wales, in which they outlined plans for an independent prescriber in every community pharmacy by 2030.