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GMC and royal colleges publish guidance on online prescribing

Healthcare professionals are expected to follow ten new principles when providing remote consultations and prescribing online, released today by the GMC and other Royal Colleges.

The new good practice guidelines have been agreed by the GMC, CQC, and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to try and ensure patient safety online.

The guidelines include understanding how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them, carry out clinical assessments and medical record checks and raise concerns when safeguards are not in place.

GPs and other healthcare professionals were also advised to:

  • Keep notes that fully explain and justify the decisions they make,
  • Share all relevant information with colleagues and other health and social care providers involved in their care,
  • Make appropriate arrangements for aftercare,
  • Explain that they can only prescribe if it is safe to do so.

The advice said: ‘It is important for healthcare professionals and employers to consider the limitations of remote services when deciding the scope of practice and range of medicines prescribed.

‘Some categories of medicines are not suitable to be prescribed remotely unless certain safeguards are in place.’

GMC chief executive 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.’

It comes after new rules for online prescribing were set by the pharmacy regulator in response to concerns that patients were being put at risk.

In May it was revealed that the General Pharmaceutical Council had put the burden of policing online pharmacists on GPs.

Two GPs were suspended from the GMC register for inappropriately prescribing opioids online in July.


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