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Investigation launched into online primary care services giving 17-second prescriptions

A website giving out prescriptions in as little as 17 seconds is one of four under inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC)

A website giving out prescriptions in as little as 17 seconds is one of four under inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Doctor Matt Ltd has been suspended pending investigation until the end of June due to the speed with which it doles out prescriptions after reviewing patient questionnaires. The CQC has now released reports detailing examples of people put at risk of harm due to insufficient identity checks, poor medical history recording and lack of communication with GPs.

Worried about the misinterpretation of symptoms leading to inappropriate medicines being prescribed, the CQC has issued a warning to Frosts Pharmacy Ltd for prescribing inhalers without making proper checks.

Restrictions were placed on White Pharmacy Ltd for prescribing a high volume of opioid-based medicines without a system in place to confirm patients’ medical histories and i-GP Ltd was instructed ensure ensuring it has a robust system in place to verify the identity of its patients.

This came as CQC published the first two inspection reports on web-based primary care – HR Healthcare Ltd and MD Direct – which highlighted similar concerns. CQC suspended the registration of HR Healthcare Ltd and MD Direct voluntarily cancelled its registration following CQC’s inspection, meaning that neither provider is providing care in England currently.

Chief inspector of general practice for primary care Professor Steve Field said: ‘It is understandable that people want convenient access to advice and medicines, but it is important that providers do not compromise on patient safety. 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.

‘Online companies, and the people working for them, have a duty to protect the people seeking their support. This might be a new way of working but the risks and responsibilities need to be understood and action taken in response.’

The CQC will check the impact of changes the websites have made in a later re-inspection. Following an internal review of all 46 online services that are registered in England, the CQC brought forward a programme of inspections prioritising those services it considers as potentially presenting a significant risk to patients.