latest health care news

06.04.17

CQC slams online services for reckless prescribing practices

The CQC has announced that it is continuing to crackdown on online prescription services after it used its powers to suspend the registration of one service and put pressure on three others.

Two of these remaining three have had specific conditions imposed on them to alter or stop prescribing certain medicines, whilst one was instructed to urgently improve its practice. CQC will return to inspect each of the services again later this year.  

Providers were found to be putting patients at risk of harm, as identity checks were insufficient, recording of medical history was poor and inappropriate medicines were prescribed to patients, according to the regulator.

Shocking practices were uncovered in inspections of some of the services, including Doctor Matt Ltd, which was found to be issuing prescriptions after taking as little as 17 seconds to review patient questionnaires and symptoms – leading the CQC to suspend the registration of the service until the end of June.

Another online service, Frosts Pharmacy Ltd, was prescribing large quantities of inhalers whilst failing to check if the patient’s condition was out of control or if their prescription needed changing.

White Pharmacy Ltd was also slammed by the CQC for prescribing a high volume of opioid-based medicines with no system in place to confirm patients’ medical or prescribing histories.

The news follows the CQC alongside the GMC, the General Pharmaceutical Council and the MHRA urging those running the websites to prescribe drugs in a more safe and effective way by following professional guidelines like any other pharmacy should last month.

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of General Practice at the CQC, said that it was understandable that patients wanted convenient access to advice and medicines, but it was the responsibility of providers to not compromise on safe practice.

“We expect the same standards of quality and safety to be met as we would see in more traditional GP settings – this is exactly what people deserve,” he warned. “Online companies, and the people working for them, have a duty to protect the people seeking their support.

“They must follow relevant guidance and best practice to make sure that they know who they are communicating with, how medicines fit in with their medical history, and that their GP is made aware of any prescribing decisions.”

Prof Field stated that though online prescribing was a new way of working, the risks and responsibilities needed to be understood and action taken in response for services who were not meeting a high enough standard.

“As the regulator of health and social care, we will continue to play our part in guaranteeing this,” he said. 

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