Obtaining medicines online
In the UK, more than 2 million people buy medicines regularly over the internet from legitimate online pharmacies. If you are considering obtaining prescription medications online, it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the important information below.
Regulations, standards and registrations
Care Quality Commission
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of healthcare in England that registers, regulates, inspects and monitors providers of regulated healthcare activities. This includes the NHS as well as online primary care and other types of providers that need to be regulated.
All providers in England who deliver regulated activities set out in Schedule 1 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 must be registered with CQC and comply with the same regulations, as amended, along with other required legislation. The main regulations incorporate the Fundamental Standards, which are the standards that every service user has a right to expect and below which care must never fall. We are assessed for compliance with relevant legislation to ensure we are delivering our service in a way that meets and exceeds requirements. All clinicians involved must divulge their names and professional registration numbers when communicating with patients, and only prescribe medicines when appropriate.
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor’s service is registered with the CQC under Provider name Expert Health Limited, and Provider registration number 1-101725251. This registration allows us to deliver our service, including regulated treatment and testing activities without the need for clinicians to see patients face-to-face.
You can find CQC’s pages about our registered service and regulated activities here, including outcomes of inspections.
You can contact the Care Quality Commission directly, using the details listed on their website contact us page.
Our CQC inspection report
In May 2017, the Care Quality Commission carried out a comprehensive inspection of LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor. CQC reported that we provide safe, effective, caring and responsive services that are well led in accordance with relevant legislation and regulations. You can find the inspection report here.
The inspection team was comprised of a CQC Lead Inspector, a second CQC Inspector, a CQC Director, a Pharmacist Specialist and two GP Specialist Advisors, who visited our office and spoke with many members of staff.
The first area looked at was safety. The CQC found that we employ enough GPs to meet patient demand, and was satisfied that each of our GPs had received the appropriate training. That we kept clear records of prescriptions, and properly checked patient identity before commencing treatment.
The inspection was also satisfied with the efficacy of our service, noting that our consultation templates had been peer-reviewed both internally and externally by doctors. The report noted that we audited our procedures to improve effectiveness – in the case of emergency contraception, we found that our pregnancy rates were lower than the national average and that this may be due to morning after pills being available from Sainsbury’s stores that had extended opening hours.
Another aspect of the inspection was the degree to which we were found to be caring; the report made reference to our internal staff audits, which were put in place to ensure all employees maintain high standards of customer service and care. Patient feedback was also considered, and attention drawn to the fact that 95% of patients would recommend our service to friends or family.
In assessing how responsive our service is to patient needs, the CQC inspection took note of the amount of information available on our site, and the ability to order an item for delivery or pick it up from a LloydsPharmacy store. We have 1,500 stores around the country, and are uniquely positioned amongst our competitors to offer same-day access to treatment. Our pharmacy network also allows us to blend the convenience of our online service with crucial face-to-face care; as noted in the CQC report, “Patients receiving contraception medicines are required to attend the pharmacy to have their blood pressure and weight checked.”
Lastly, our service was found to be well led. Our management structure was deemed effective and staff were found to be happy, supported, and well-equipped to give feedback. All patient information was found to be stored safely, ensuring confidentiality.
Most encouragingly, the report picked up on our ability to resolve issues quickly and safely. Following the initial inspection, we responded quickly to the CQC’s feedback, putting in place several changes to improve our service. In one instance, we made an alteration to our service to ensure that prescriptions requiring height and weight checks could not be accessed until accurate readings had been taken and entered into the system.
These kinds of changes are constantly being implemented, whether in response to official inspections, patient feedback or input from our staff. Though we are delighted with the results of the CQC’s report, we will strive to maintain our high standards and remain open to feedback and change.
The Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority
The Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is the independent regulator and inspector of healthcare services delivered in Northern Ireland. Expert Health Limited trading as LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor is a registered Independent Medical Agency, under ID 11992, providing the regulated category of care ‘Private Doctor/Patient Group Directions’. We undergo annual inspections by RQIA to ensure we are meeting the Minimum Care Standards for Independent Healthcare Establishments set by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. These Standards are underpinned by various legislation, as amended, including the Independent Health Care Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 and the The Regulation and Improvement Authority (Independent Health Care) (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011.
You can access our latest inspection reports on RQIA’s website here which demonstrate a good record of safe, compassionate and effective care and a well-led service.
RQIA can be contacted using the details on their Contact page.
General Medical Council
All our doctors are registered with the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) and comply with explicit GMC standards and guidelines including for remote prescribing.
You can check our doctors' GMC registrations online here.
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) monitors medicines and medical devices sold or distributed in the UK. They have the power to prosecute those who manufacture and distribute counterfeit products illegally in the UK. LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor is registered as a legitimate online seller of medicines and displays the EU Common Logo which shows our website operates legally.
For more information click here.
General Pharmaceutical Council
All LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor’s independent prescribing pharmacists are registered with Great Britain’s regulator of pharmacists, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
The internet pharmacy logo for LloydsPharmacy, who dispense the prescriptions on behalf of LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, can be found on their homepage. Clicking LloydsPharmacy’s internet pharmacy logo, will take you to the LloydsPharmacy registration page on GPhC’s website.
All retail pharmacies in Great Britain, including those providing internet services, must be registered with GPhC. All registered online pharmacies must clearly display their unique internet pharmacy logo issued by GPhC on their website helping the public to identify legitimate websites. All GPhC logos display a green cross, with the words "Registered Pharmacy" and a 7-digit registration number. Clicking the logo takes you to the online pharmacy’s registration page on GPhC’s website allowing you to verify the registration details of the pharmacy behind the website. Further information on the logo and its use can be found on the GPhC website here.
While a number of legitimate registered pharmacies provide professional online pharmacy services, there are also a number of suppliers operating from websites offering to sell medicines who have no professional qualifications or healthcare expertise, and these sites cannot use the logo.
Unregulated pharmaceutical websites
By law, all online prescription services should be registered as this ensures that only genuine medicines are supplied, accurate information is given and careful checks are carried out.
Buying medicines from websites that are not connected to registered pharmacies can present a number of risks. There is no opportunity for an appropriately qualified health professional to assess whether the medicine is safe and appropriate for you to use, or to advise you on how the medication should be taken. This practice is dangerous, because only a doctor can reliably assess whether a prescription-only medicine is appropriate for a specific individual.
In addition, the safety and quality of medicines sold by unqualified internet suppliers cannot be guaranteed. Unregulated websites may supply fake medicines, which could contain inactive powder or might even be toxic.
A pharmacy offering to send out prescription-only medicine without requiring a doctor’s prescription may well be fraudulent.
Similarly, websites which are not regulated by the CQC may employ doctors who don’t make a proper assessment of each patient. Prescription-only medicines should only be prescribed to a patient after the doctor is confident that it’s in the patient’s best interest to receive it.
The person with overall clinical responsibility for LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor is Dr Kieran Seyan. Dr Seyan is a UK registered General Practitioner. He oversees our team of clinicians (comprising doctors and independent prescribing pharmacists) who manage Online Doctor patients.
You can write to Dr Kieran Seyan at:
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor
50-54 Wigmore Street
Learn more about our clinicians here.
Confidentiality and data protection
McKesson Europe position paper: Managing medicines shortages
Medicines shortages in Europe are an increasing concern and can lead to serious consequences for patients. They are the result of multiple causes, and therefore have no simple solution: they require strategic management and coordination across the medicines supply chain.
As one of Europe’s largest medicines distributors and pharmacy owners, McKesson Europe takes this issue very seriously. In this Position Paper, we outline the measures we are already taking and also set out proposed policies which would involve other stakeholders that we believe are necessary to address this problem.