Principles for good practice issued to protect patients online

Healthcare organisations including regulators, royal colleges and faculties, are today issuing a set of principles to help protect patient safety and welfare when accessing potentially-harmful medication online or over the phone.

The jointly-agreed High level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing set out the good practice expected of healthcare professionals when prescribing medication online.

The ten principles, underpinned by existing standards and guidance, include that healthcare professionals are expected to:

  • Understand how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them

  • Carry out clinical assessments and medical record checks to ensure medication is safe and appropriate
  • Raise concerns when adequate patient safeguards aren’t in place.

These principles apply to all healthcare professionals involved in providing consultations and medication to patients remotely, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and opticians. 

The publication follows the release, in September, of a joint statement by healthcare regulators, which included a commitment to work together and with partner organisations to develop shared principles on remote consultations and prescribing. 

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said: 

‘Online healthcare services can be convenient and helpful for patients and the public, but they also have to be provided safely so people only receive medicines that are clinically appropriate for them.  There are particular risks with prescribing medicines online that have to be effectively managed by the prescriber.

‘These new principles make clear what all health professionals, including pharmacists, are expected to do when prescribing online. They reflect what we say in our standards and our new guidance for pharmacist prescribers, which we will be publishing in the coming weeks.”

Sandra Gidley, President of the RPS, said:

‘Online pharmacy has come under increased scrutiny and we must see an end to cases of inappropriate supply. Patients and the public should rightly expect all online pharmacy services to be of the same quality and standard as a ‘bricks and mortar’ pharmacy. It's important that regulation and guidance keeps pace with changes in technology, so this common set of principles for all health professionals is a helpful step to support patient safety.’


The principles have been co-authored and agreed by:

Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Care Quality Commission, Faculty of Pain Medicine, General Dental Council, General Medical Council, General Optical Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.