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A faulty production line

Online GP practice fined more than £18,000 for running illegal services

An online GP practice has been hit with an £18,000 fine after it admitted to providing healthcare services illegally. 

Medical Specialist Company Ltd, based in Bury, had been offering online GP consultations and prescribing medications to patients for nearly two years when it was found to have been operating without registration.  

The company had previously attempted to secure a licence in 2015 but was refused, later trying again in 2017 but also being turned down. However, it continued to offer services.

Earlier this month Manchester Magistrates Court sentenced the company to pay £18,000 in fines, including a £13,000 charge, a £170 victim surcharge and £5,000 to cover court costs. 

Company director David Bailey admitted to the court he was aware that the law requires any service undertaking a regulated activity, such as treating diseases, disorders or injuries, to be registered with the CQC.

The CQC brought the case forward after it found the company had been providing GP services without a licence between April 2017 and June 2018.

Medical Specialist Company originally attempted to register with the CQC in October 2015 but its application was refused as it failed to meet a number of requirements and comply with regulations.  

In February 2017, the regulator obtained information that showed the online provider was operating without a licence. Following an investigation, the CQC issued the company with a fixed penalty notice of £4,000. 

The company made a second attempt at registering its services the same month, without success.  

CQC chief inspector Joyce Frederick said: 'The registration and regulation of online doctors is there to protect people using the services. It ensures that online services can be inspected, monitored, held to the national standards and that, ultimately, they are safe for patients. Operating an unregistered service puts people at risk of harm.

'Online services have a duty to protect those using their services. This provider had previously been warned about operating without registration, and fined, but disregarded our concerns, and warnings, and continued to offer services in contravention of the law and risking people’s safety.'

He added: 'Where we find providers who are operating outside of the law, we will always consider using our enforcement powers to protect people and hold them to account.'

Medical Specialist Company managing director David Bailey said: 'The law needs to be changed in my opinion. New companies/pharmacies with doctors should need to register with the CQC immediately of course.

'However, long-established businesses such as ours with no previous illegalities should be allowed to continue trading whilst applying for registration and not be treated as criminals.'

Pulse reported this week that the CQC will have to reinspect almost 70 adult and social care services in England after if found duplicate material in over 100 reports

Readers' comments (11)

  • Of course “the Regulator” has potentially much to lose from the private sector which must be kept in check at all costs. Everybody knows that the healthcare product the public sector provides to the public is crap and would collapse under a competitive free market system. So the self serving thing for “the Government regulator” is to nip any hint of private enterprise in the bud

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  • I will agree with Harry when private providers show an enthusiasm for older frail adults with multiple pathology needing frequent appointments with no increase in annual funding. I won't hold my breath.

    Private online provision will over time simply make ordinary general practice more difficult to deliver and is NOT the right solution to improve standards.

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  • If the government had the guts to do the right thing and hand liberty back to the people by cutting regulation that is stifling any competition to the nhs from private healthcare (and that includes individual doctors being allowed to set up private practices with no regulations or restrictions from some government politburo or another...hint hint CQC) then I would bet that the nhs would feel the searing heat of some fair competition for once. Right now there is basically no competition to the nhs freak show because the government won’t allow any. If those clowns responsible for running the nhs had any guts they’d free up private health care provision but of course they know that the nhs would vanish if they did such a thing so they won’t allow it. The con must go on

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  • 18000 seems very little when I suspect they made much more illegal profit. And why did it take so long. During that time he put patients at risk. Private healthcare is always a risk for anyone as the people involved are there to make a profit and do not always do what is best for the patient. We see this in patient who come back off holiday having been treated with IV antibiotics for a viral URTI or three of four injections because they felt a little sick.
    It is difficult for the doctor to say no as well as the patient has paid money and expects some magic to be done. While in the UK we are empowered to giver advice when that is all that is needed.
    Of course I generalise but in private healthcare the temptation is there and with 100,000 doctors not all are angels.

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  • Must be really shitting themselves, just "google"

    Medical Specialists Company Ltd, nice few "hits" and still active according to Companies House

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  • Mark Howson
    You do massively generalise about private providers / single handed professionals set up in this country. They are not in it wholly for a profit. I do it so that I have time and space to provide the service that I am unable to provide in the NHS.
    I am already regulated by my professional college / appraisal and insurance firm.

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  • The CQC are a protection racket; pay up if you know what's good for you.

    That MSC made money suggests they were providing a service their customers valued; that the CQC pursued the failure to register bollix suggests that the stasi could find no evidence of harm.

    Now, if only we had a union to stand up for us....

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  • Mark Howson you make some staggeringly sweeping and naively false generalisations:

    “Private healthcare is always a risk for anyone as the people involved are there to make a profit and do not always do what is best for the patient.”

    Private health care is not always a “risk” for everyone. Many people would willingly choose private healthcare if the healthcare they got from the state didn’t fulfil their needs. I suspect that is a lot if people.

    The people setting up any private enterprise are there to provide a service that people need and yes earn a profit. Do you not earn a profit from the work you do in the nhs? If you’re not doing nhs work for a profit at the expense of the poor patients as you would have us believe then why don’t you hand your salary back to the nhs?

    They do not always do what is best for the patient? How can you be so sure about this? They have far more of an incentive to do what’s best for the patient because if they don’t they’d cease to exist as a private enterprise very quickly indeed whereas you or other nhs workers may provide substandard care and/or a poor level of service and the state wouldn’t particularly give a damn. Just go to the online reviews for Gp practices across the uk and see how satisfied the great british public is with what the state provides them. Do you see the government giving a damn? I don’t

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  • Unfortunately there is some truth in both above views. What I provide for my patients (NHS general practice) is less than what I would like for various reasons mainly because what can (not necessarily should) be done for patients has no obvious upper limit.
    But what we must stand firm for in the NHS system is that there is little or no financial gain for me in recommending one treatment compared to another, or no treatment at all.
    You simply can't say that for private practice.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    The open market in the USA doesn't seem to produce very good outcomes.

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