Lessons must be learnt by online GP service providers to ensure patient safety, says RCGP

Publication date: 23 March 2018

Responding to the Care Quality Commission's latest report into the quality of online primary care services, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"It's absolutely right that the Care Quality Commission holds organisations that provide online primary care services to the same high standards as any other healthcare provider, to ensure that they are delivering safe, high-quality, and compassionate care for patients – and it's reassuring to see that a greater proportion are providing safe care than last year.

"But it's very concerning to see that even now, 43% of online consultation providers have been deemed unsafe in some respect. New services will inevitably experience some teething problems, but when our patients' health is at risk urgent, swift action must be taken to comprehensively address these before the service is rolled out further.

"The inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, for example, poses risks to individual patients but also is of great concern to the wider public - and the failure to collect and share a patient's data with their NHS GP could certainly have a detrimental effect on their future care.

"As a College we recognise the potential of online consultations to complement traditional GP services, and it's good to see some innovative schemes emerging, which are highlighted in this report – but all new technology should only be implemented on a wider scale if it is safe, effective, and leads to better outcomes for our patients, GPs, and the wider NHS.

"It is now essential that lessons are learnt from this report to ensure patients are not put at risk and that they receive the high-quality care they need and deserve.

"The College is currently developing guidance for patients, GPs and commissioners who are considering alternatives to face-to-face consultations, to encourage them to only do so after careful consideration of all potential risks and benefits."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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