​With the introduction of electronic prescribing and image-based prescribing in community practice, below is a quick guide for medical practitioners and pharmacists on valid prescription formats.

Legal forms

  1. Handwritten and hand-signed (in prescriber’s handwriting) on paper
  2. Printed on paper and hand-signed in prescriber’s handwriting
    Must comply with the  Criteria for Issuing Non-Handwritten (Computer-Generated) Prescriptions (TG 184). Key criteria include:
    • System must prevent anyone but prescriber being able to generate/print prescription
    • Must be hand-signed by prescriber
    • No alterations permitted
    • For Schedule 8 medicines, the drug name, strength, quantity, directions for use, number of repeats and repeat intervals must be also hand-written by prescriber
    • Some exemptions are in place for prescriptions dispensed only at a public hospital pharmacy
    Prescriptions issued using a public hospital electronic medication management system with Cerner Prescription Output Version 2 comply with TG184. View the Factsheet for Community Pharmacies: Computer generated prescription formats from NSW public health facilities.
  3. Medication charts for hospital inpatients
    • Must be on a form of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Hospital Medication Chart published by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (can include non-PBS items), or on a chart in a hospital for dispensing only by that hospital’s pharmacy.
    • Pharmacist dispenses using a copy of the chart.
  4. Direction given face-to-face, by phone, fax or email
    • Direction must be given personally by the prescriber to the dispensing pharmacist
    • Must include all details required for a prescription
    • Prescriber must immediately create the prescription and send it within 24 hours to the pharmacist
  5. Image-based prescribing
    • Temporarily permitted during COVID-19 pandemic when prescriber provides a Medicare-funded telehealth consultation
    • Prescriber creates and hand-signs a paper prescription
    • Prescriber sends a copy of the prescription (photo or scanned image) directly to the dispensing pharmacist (chosen by the patient) by fax or email
    • The image cannot be sent to the patient or any other third party
    • The image cannot be sent by text/SMS or via an App or a website
    • Cannot be used for Schedule 8 medicines (e.g. opioids) or Schedule 4 Appendix D medicines  (e.g. benzodiazepines, anabolic steroids, pregabalin)
    • Pharmacist must print the image and retain it
    • Any repeats can be dispensed only from the same pharmacy
    • Information for doctors on image-based prescribing
    • Information for pharmacists on image-based prescribing
  6. Electronic prescriptions in community practice
    • Must be issued using a conformant electronic prescribing system (must have a Conformance ID)
    • The prescriber must populate required data fields, including patient date of birth
    • Must be transmitted using a conformant prescription delivery system (must have a Conformance ID)
    • Patient receives an evidence of prescription (token) to present to his or her chosen pharmacy
    • Pharmacist must use a conformant electronic dispensing system (must have a Conformance ID)
    • For conformant systems see the Electronic Prescribing Conformance Register
    • More on electronic prescribing in NSW
  7. Paper-based medication chart prescriptions in Residential Care Facilities
    • Cannot be used for Schedule 8 medicines, Schedule 4 appendix B medicines, or Schedule 4 authority-required medicines (clause 37)
    • Pharmacist dispenses using a copy of the chart
  8. Electronic medication chart prescriptions in Residential Care Facilities
    • Being piloted by three software vendors in designated facilities and pharmacies under special authority
    • More information

    Examples of illegal forms of prescriptions

      • Prescriptions on forms pre-populated by someone other than the prescriber (e.g. pharmacy, 'prescription broker', clerical assistant, patient)
        (In public hospitals patient details may be on a pre-printed sticker other than for Schedule 8 medicines)
      • Prescriptions sent through companies, websites or apps other than electronic prescriptions using conformant systems with Conformance IDs
      • An image of a prescription provided to a patient
      • An image provided to a pharmacy by anyone other than the prescriber
      • Paper prescriptions with digital signatures
      • Electronic or image based veterinary prescriptions

    Other illegal/unprofessional scenarios

      • Prescriptions requested by the patient in response to websites offering to arrange supply of Schedule 4 medicines (e.g. contraceptives/infertility treatments). This is contrary to Medical Board standards and telehealth principles (and Medicare rules). See, for example, Telehealth guidance for practitioners
      • The decision whether to prescribe a Schedule 4 medicine for a patient, and the choice of which medicine, form, strength and quantity, must be made by the prescriber, not governed by patient request or brokered by a third party such as a pharmacy, medicine sponsor or others who receive financial benefit from the prescribing of the medicine.
    Current as at: Monday 7 June 2021
    Contact page owner: Pharmaceutical Services