Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Changes to primary care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic and perceived impact on medication safety: a survey study

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-07-22, 10:52 authored by Laura L. Gleeson, Aoife Ludlow, Emma WallaceEmma Wallace, Rob ArgentRob Argent, Claire Collins, Barbara ClyneBarbara Clyne, Lisa MellonLisa Mellon, James BarlowJames Barlow, Benedict RyanBenedict Ryan, Aoife De Brún, Alice HoltonAlice Holton, Muriel Pate, Ciara Kirke, Michelle FloodMichelle Flood, Frank MoriartyFrank Moriarty

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the delivery of primary care around the world. In Ireland, the use of technologies such as virtual consultations and the electronic transfer of prescriptions became widespread in order to deliver care to patients while minimising infection risk. The impact of these changes on medication safety is not yet known.

Objectives: The aims of this survey study were to investigate 1) the changes that have occurred in Irish primary care since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2) the impact of these changes on medication safety.

Methods: Anonymous, online surveys were distributed to general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacists from August-September 2021. Surveys contained quantitative (multiple-choice, Likert scale) and qualitative (free-text) questions concerning workflow changes, medication safety incidents and near misses, and GP/pharmacist perspectives on medication safety and COVID-19. Reported medication safety incidents and near misses were categorised according to the WHO Conceptual Framework for the International Classification for Patient Safety.

Results: In total, there were 251 responses to the survey, comprising of 211 pharmacists and 40 GPs. The most significant workflow changes during the pandemic were the widespread use of a secure clinical email service (Healthmail) that facilitates electronic prescription transfer and communication (75.3% of respondents) and the increased use of telephone consultations (49%). Overall, Healthmail was widely perceived to have had a positive impact on medication safety. Most GPs did not perceive a change in the frequency of medication safety incidents during the pandemic, while most pharmacists reported a slight increase in incidents. Survey participants highlighted pressure, patient expectations, and patient monitoring as significant challenges encountered during the pandemic.

Conclusions: During the pandemic, a number of significant changes occurred in primary care in Ireland, particularly involving communication of healthcare information, with varying impacts on workflow and medication safety. Future research should focus on the optimisation of electronic prescribing and telemedicine services in Ireland, patient perspectives on the changes in primary care, and interventions to improve medication safety in primary care.


Health Research Board (Ireland) via the CONNECTS project grant (RCSPS-2020-032)



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Published Citation

Gleeson LL, et al. Changes to primary care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic and perceived impact on medication safety: a survey study. Explor Res Clin Soc Pharm. 2022;6:100143.

Publication Date

9 June 2022

PubMed ID



  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences
  • General Practice
  • Health Psychology
  • Chemistry


Elsevier B.V.


  • Published Version (Version of Record)