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26.03.18

CQC raises concern around online GP services as 43% of providers fall short on safety

The CQC has raised concerns that the quality of care provided through independently run apps or websites is still lagging behind in terms of safety.

In its review of online services that provide GP consultations and prescriptions online through, the health inspectorate said that though quality had improved over the last year, companies that provide these services still had work to do to bring safety standards up in line with regular general practice.

The review, based on 55 inspections, found that 97% of providers were ‘caring’, and 90% were meeting demands in being ‘responsive’ to patients’ needs.

However, though the CQC said these online services were capable of improving access to care for patients, it stated that it was concerned about the safety of some services.

Over two in five (43%) of providers inspected were found to not be delivering ‘safe’ care – as inspectors found issues with inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, unsatisfactory responses to safeguarding children, failure to collect patient information from GPs and inappropriate prescribing of medicine for patients with long-term conditions.

“New methods of service delivery that increase access to care and give patients more control over how and when they see a GP have huge potential not only for patients but for the wider health system,” professor Steve Field, chief inspector of General Practice at the Care Quality Commission, said.

“However, while innovation should be encouraged, it must never come at the expense of quality. As with all health care services, patient safety must be at the heart of all decisions around what kind of care is offered and how it is delivered.

 “We must all work together – providers by using our inspection findings to learn and improve, and oversight bodies by working together and continuing to have a positive dialogue with providers – to ensure that this model fulfils its promise of accessible, responsive care while ensuring that the care delivered is always safe and high quality.”

RCGP: Safety of services ‘very concerning’

Chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) Helen Stokes-Lampard also said it was “very concerning” that 42% of providers were not providing safe care.

“New services will inevitably experience some teething problems, but when our patients' health is at risk urgent, swift action must be taken to comprehensively address these before the service is rolled out further,” she warned.

“The inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, for example, poses risks to individual patients but also is of great concern to the wider public - and the failure to collect and share a patient's data with their NHS GP could certainly have a detrimental effect on their future care.”

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