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Web GPs shut down in CQC swoop

Regulator sanctions providers where patients self-medicate

March 8th 2017

Tagged: CQC

By Ailsa Colquhoun


Web GPs shut down in CQC swoop

CQC slams providers where patients self-medicate

Two online GP and pharmacy providers have shut down following CQC urgent inspections.

The providers are MD Direct (which had traded through the website and HR Healthcare Ltd (through the website

CQC’s inspection of HR Healthcare Ltd was influenced by an investigation by Dr Faye Kirkland for BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates in October 2016, which looked at the online sale of antibiotics from this provider.

Immediately after the inspections, CQC suspended the registration of HR Healthcare Ltd. MD Direct responded to CQC’s concerns by voluntarily cancelling its registration. Both providers have stopped providing services to patients in England ( now uses an alternative online GP provider for its prescription service).

Inspectors found that the two providers demonstrated significant clinical safety and organisational risk to patients, with widespread failings to provide safe care. Among the concerns which were identified:

  • No (or minimal) identity checks for patients.
  • No way of identifying whether or not patients lacked capacity to consent or understand their prescribed treatment or medical advice, or if there were any safeguarding concerns (and if they were identified, minimal structures in place to handle them).
  • No systems or processes to contact the patient’s regular GP, including when medication was prescribed that required monitoring or follow-up
  • Prescribing practice that did not take account of the patient’s clinical condition or consider differential diagnoses.
  • Inadequate medical history-taking to inform appropriate prescribing.
  • No assurances that clinicians had relevant skills or qualifications for the role they were performing.

Following an internal review of all 43 online services that are registered, CQC has brought forward a programme of inspections prioritising those services it considers as potentially presenting a significant risk to patients.

CQC chief inspector of GPs, professor Steve Field said: “We have found websites which in effect allow people to select their own medication, including medicines restricted as prescription only, with little or limited clinical oversight.”

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council, said: “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.”