Providing safe and effective services online

In a joint statement, four regulatory bodies - the General Pharmaceutical Council, CQC, the General Medical Council, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency - have reminded providers and healthcare professionals working for online primary care services that they must provide safe and effective care.

The statement says: “Technological advances have brought opportunities to deliver healthcare in new ways, including online primary medical services. Potentially, this innovation allows patients easier access to care and treatment when they need it.

“We share a joint commitment to ensure that the same safeguards are in place for patients whether they attend a physical consultation with their GP or seek medical advice and treatment online.

“We will continue to work closely together to share intelligence where we have concerns and take action where necessary to protect patients. We will ensure providers and clinicians are clear on their responsibilities to protect people who use their services and deliver safe, high quality care.”

CQC has published information on how it inspects and regulates providers of digital primary care, as well as advice for the public when considering using an online doctor. CQC has also brought forward a programme of inspections of online primary care services prioritising those services it considers as potentially presenting a significant risk to patients.     

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, said: "Patients and the public always have the right to expect safe and effective care, whether they are receiving this care face-to-face or online. The regulators involved all have different responsibilities, but by working closely together, we can help make sure that people are receiving safe and effective care at each stage of the process, from when they first visit an online primary care service to when they receive their medicines from a pharmacy.

“Where necessary, we are carrying out further inspections of the pharmacies linked to the online primary care services being inspected by the CQC, to assess whether they are meeting our standards and appropriately addressing the issues and risks linked with online prescribing and dispensing.”

Read the full press release from CQC here.