How to avoid unregulated online doctors
On 6 August 2018, BBC’s Panorama investigation exposed safety concerns relating to online doctor websites using doctors from companies based outside England. The programme discovered opiate-based painkillers and slimming tablets being sold to potentially vulnerable people and antibiotics being delivered across Europe in the face of warnings about resistance.
What should a safe online doctor service do?
At a time when the NHS is under considerable pressure, it makes sense to maximise the opportunities presented by the internet to further increase efficiencies in the health care system. Similar to online banking, remote technologies are a very useful way to complement existing services and are being increasingly relied upon both within the NHS and the private sector to relieve these pressures.
So it’s frustrating to see that disreputable companies are circumventing the rigorous requirements and standards regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) because their sites employ doctors contracted by companies outside England.
Patients appreciate the discreet nature of online consultations, but they should be focussing more on reliability and above all safety.
Online doctor service safety checklist
- Check for CQC’s authorised branding including logo which must link to their service’s pages on CQC’s website plus a CQC rating
- The doctor should give you their name when dealing with your enquiry
- Doctors should be registered with the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC) and give you their GMC registration number
- The doctor should ask about your medical history as well as your specific condition
- The doctor should comply with explicit GMC guidelines on remote prescribing and you may be asked to confirm your identity where appropriate
The CQC have updated their guidance for choosing an online healthcare service, which you can read here.
Yes, face-to-face consultations will remain at the heart of primary care, but remote services do provide a vital alternative for an increasing array of conditions. Let’s not undermine the value that online doctors provide by tarring all services with the same brush.
For more information about obtaining medicines online, click here.