Pharmacies play an important role in ensuring people in the community can access their medications, while also keeping themselves and others safe. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are being asked to self-isolate if they have symptoms and are awaiting COVID-19 test results, or if NSW Health considers they are likely to have been recently exposed to COVID-19. Some groups are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and may also benefit from home delivery options.

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Obtaining prescriptions

Most people are able to organise prescription medicine supply by telephoning their GP and their usual pharmacy for arrangements to be made.

Image based prescription

As of 17 April 2020, community pharmacists in NSW can dispense a prescription for most medicines using an image of the prescription received by email or fax, rather than requiring a paper prescription. Further information is available about image-based prescriptions.

Paper prescription or repeat prescription at home

If the patient has a paper prescription or a repeat prescription, ask the patient to either:

  • arrange for a friend or carer who is not in isolation to present the prescription to the pharmacy. They can then deliver the dispensed medicines to the patient, or
  • the patient's GP can phone, fax or email a prescription to the pharmacist, and mail the original prescription within 24 hours.

See more information on providing healthcare remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Electronic prescription

If the patient has an electronic prescription, they can forward it by email or SMS for the pharmacy to scan. The pharmacy can then prepare the delivery of medicines. Visit the Electronic Prescriptions website for more information.

If the patient does not have a prescription

Pharmacists should consider:

  • The patient's ability to organise their prescription by phoning their GP or arranging a telehealth consultation.
    • For most prescription medicines, a GP can email or fax an image-based prescription to the patient's preferred pharmacy. The original paper prescription does not need to be provided to the pharmacy. If there are any repeats on the image-based prescription, these will need to be held at the pharmacy until the patient comes out of isolation. Find out more about image-based prescriptions.
  • Whether the supply of medication is an emergency. To exercise the Special Temporary Authority, the pharmacist must be satisfied in their professional judgement that:
    • the medicine has been previously prescribed to the patient, and
    • the patient needs the medicine immediately for continuation of current essential treatment, and
    • it is not practically possible for the patient, or the pharmacist, to obtain a prescription from any appropriate prescriber, even via phone, fax or email to the pharmacist.
  • Whether the medication is listed under medicines eligible for continued dispensing, and the patient has not requested that it be dispensed without prescription within the past 12 months.
    • For patients requiring urgent supply of most oral contraceptives or statins, pharmacists may dispense a single PBS quantity under Continued Dispensing arrangements.
  • A pharmacist may dispense using telephone or email orders in an emergency. The pharmacist can confirm the patient's current medication details with the prescriber, or a prescriber may direct a pharmacist to supply a medicine to a patient in an emergency situation, by providing a telephone order, email or facsimile. The prescriber must forward a paper prescription to the pharmacy as soon as practicable and within 24 hours, endorsed as such. If not received within 7 days, the pharmacist must report this to the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit on telephone 02 9391 9944.
  • Pharmacists must take special care to verify a telephone order for a Schedule 4 Appendix D or Schedule 8 medicine is genuine, e.g. by calling back the prescriber using an independent source of telephone number. If the pharmacist is unable to verify the prescriber's identity but has no other reason for suspecting the order is not genuine, then no more than two days' supply should be made until the written signed hardcopy prescription is received.

Home delivery service process

Pharmacies should offer a home delivery service. Pharmacists should use professional judgement about how to best consult with a patient and should apply the following guidelines:

  • Medicines should be packed in plain packaging (i.e. not obviously from a pharmacy).
  • The delivery person should be a responsible person delegated by the pharmacist, an adult in the case of Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D medicines.
  • Storage requirements for medicines should be considered.
  • Where possible, notify the patient of the expected timing of the delivery.
  • Facemasks, goggles and personal protective equipment is not required for home delivery services, as delivery should be achievable without contact.
  • If the address is an apartment, the delivery person should be permitted through the common areas to the apartment door so that the isolated person remains in their apartment.
  • If the isolated person is in a household with other people, someone who is not in isolation is preferred to receive the delivery.
  • Delivery personnel should ring the doorbell or contact number and then stand back a minimum of 1.5 metres to check the delivery is received.
  • Consider the risk if medicines are left unattended. For Schedule 8 and Schedule 4 Appendix D medicines, if the door is not answered and the medicine cannot be left in a secure place (e.g. a locked letterbox), the medicine should not be left unattended, but returned to the pharmacy. If appropriate, items should be left outside the door for the recipient to collect.
  • A receipt is required for delivery of Schedule 8 medicines. The pharmacist will need a mechanism to do this, and emailed acknowledgment of receipt would be reasonable.

Pack the medicine in plain packaging. Delegate a responsible person to deliver the medicines. The delivery person does not need PPE. The delivery person should be an adult if delivering Schedule 8 or Schedule 4 Appendix D medicines. Where possible, notify the patient of the expected delivery time. At delivery, ring the doorbell or the contact number. Stand back a minimum if 1.5 metres to check delivery is received. If possible, a person in the household not in isolation is preferred to receive the delivery.

Sending medicines via mail or courier

Medicines which have been prescribed, dispensed and labelled for a patient, and Schedule 2 or unscheduled medicines, can be sent to the patient by post or courier or other carrier (such as a bus driver in rural areas).

In the case of Schedule 8 medicines delivered by carrier, the sender should obtain a receipt from the carrier and require the carrier to obtain a receipt from the addressee and deliver it to the sender.

There should be nothing on the external packaging that identifies the contents as a Schedule 8 or Schedule 4 Appendix D medicine.

Australia Post regulations also apply, see Australia Post - Dangerous and prohibited goods and packaging guide. Sections 10.10, 10.13 and 10.14, require that the quantity sent "does not exceed the maximum quantity that may be dispensed at one time" and have special packaging requirements for tablets, liquids, pastes and powders.

Supply and handling of dose administration aids (DAAs)

Pharmacists should apply the following advice when supplying DAAs:

Mental health support

Community pharmacies providing support to patients in home isolation are an important part of the patient's care team. Pharmacy staff may encounter patients in home isolation, or those attending the pharmacy for general assistance, who require additional mental health support. If you have immediate concerns for the safety of a patient experiencing a mental health crisis, consider contacting a support line such as the Suicide Call Back Service or Lifeline on the patient's behalf, during the episode of care.

A factsheet on accessing mental health services in NSW during the pandemic has been developed to support both patients and health professionals to access services. The Pharmacists' Support Service is available for pharmacists (not for general public) to access.

More information

Pharmacists may seek advice on compliance with the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods legislation from the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit, Ministry of Health, contact the Duty Pharmaceutical Officer on telephone 02 9391 9944.

Pharmacists may seek advice on managing pharmacy closures from the Pharmacy Council of NSW on telephone 1300 197 177.


Current as at: Wednesday 24 March 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW