The high level principles It aims to protect patient safety and welfare when accessing potentially-harmful medication online or over the phone. Photo: iStock

Healthcare organisations and regulators, including the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), today launched a set of principles for professionals prescribing medicines online.

The ten new high level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing are underpinned by existing standards and guidance. They aim to protect patient safety and welfare when accessing potentially-harmful medication online or over the phone.

All healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, involved in providing consultations and medications to patients remotely 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.

“Online healthcare services can be convenient and helpful for patients and the public, but they also have to be provided safely so people only receive medicines that are clinically appropriate for them,” said Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC.

Rudkin pointed to the risks with prescribing medicines online and said that these new principles made clear what all health professionals were expected to do while prescribing online.

“They reflect what we say in our standards and our new guidance for pharmacist prescribers, which we will be publishing in the coming weeks,” he added.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) considers these principles as a helpful steps to support patient safety.

“Online pharmacy has come under increased scrutiny and we must see an end to cases of inappropriate supply. Patients and the public should rightly expect all online pharmacy services to be the same quality and standard as a ‘bricks and mortar’ pharmacy,” said RPS President Sandra Gidley.

The publication of high level principles follows a joint statement by healthcare regulators on online primary care services.

The other co-authors of the latest publication include the Care Quality Commission and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.

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