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Principles for good practice issued to protect patients online

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Healthcare organisations including regulators, royal colleges and faculties are today, Friday 8 November 2019, issuing a set of principles to help protect patient safety and welfare when accessing potentially-harmful medication online or over the phone.

The jointly-agreed High level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing set out the good practice expected of healthcare professionals when prescribing medication online.

The ten principles, underpinned by existing standards and guidance, include that healthcare professionals are expected to:

  • Understand how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them
  • Carry out clinical assessments and medical record checks to ensure medication is safe and appropriate
  • Raise concerns when adequate patient safeguards aren’t in place.

These principles apply to all healthcare professionals involved in providing consultations and medication to patients remotely, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and opticians.

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

The principles have been co-authored and agreed by:

Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Care Quality Commission. Faculty of Pain Medicine, General Dental Council, General Medical Council, General Optical Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, 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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