GMC warning for GPs working for online services

A set of principles aimed at helping GPs and other health professionals who practise online to ensure patient safety has been co-published by the GMC.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey

High level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing sets out 10 fundamental points aimed at informing practitioners including GPs, nurses and pharmacists about best practice when prescribing medication online or consulting virtually, either over the phone or via video link.

The publication follows the release of a joint statement by healthcare regulators in September, which included a commitment to work together and with partner organisations to develop shared principles on remote consultations and prescribing.

Healthcare professionals should understand how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them, carry out checks to ensure medication is safe and take responsibility for raising concerns when adequate patient safeguards aren’t in place.

Increased risk

Remote consultations and prescribing provided online, via video link or by phone are intended to benefit patients, save resources and help meet public demand for more convenient access to healthcare, the guidance says.

However, it highlights potential patient safety risks - especially where there may be limited access to a patient’s medical records or where records aren’t linked.

The principles aim to make providers of remote services and healthcare professionals aware of these risks and to clarify their responsibilities around protecting patients.

Chief executive of the GMC Charlie Massey said: ‘The flexibility of accessing healthcare online can benefit patients, but it is imperative these services do not impact on their safety, especially when doctors are prescribing high-risk medicines.

‘Doctors working for online services have the same obligations to follow our guidance and to prescribe safely as they would do for face-to-face consultations.

‘These principles will remind all healthcare professionals of the importance of prioritising the safety and welfare of patients when prescribing medication remotely, and will help facilitate a culture where unsafe practice is called out and acted on.’

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