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.’