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18 April 2018 | Comment | Article by Ruth Powell

Online doctors: Just as good as visiting your GP?


In a day and age where almost everything can be done online and patients want more control over how and when they access healthcare, it is no surprise that over the last few years there has been a huge rise in online doctors in both the NHS and independent healthcare services.

You now no longer need to see your GP face to face; it can be done via skype or even an app.

However, some of these online services have faced criticism as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has recently found 43% of these companies were not providing ‘safe’ care in accordance to the relevant regulations.

Examples of regulations that have been breached included:

  • inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics
  • prescribing high volumes of opioid-based medicines without talking to the patient’s registered GP
  • not collecting patient information or sharing information with a patient’s NHS GP
  • inappropriate prescribing of medicines for long-term conditions

Many would expect to receive the same level of advice and care from an online GP as they would from their registered GP. Unfortunately, the CQC’s report suggests that this may not always be the case. Patients must be aware of the level of care they are likely to receive if they use a virtual GP service.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “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.”

At Hugh James, we are experienced in investigating cases of negligence by GP’s. If you are concerned about the treatment you have received from an online GP service or your registered GP, then please do contact us.

Hugh James is ranked in the top tier for our expert clinical negligence advice by both major legal guides Chambers and Partners UK and The Legal 500. Get in touch by using the contact details on the tabs at the right of the page.

Author bio

Ruth is a Partner and Head of our Clinical Negligence Department. She has exclusively practised in clinical negligence since qualifying in 1995 and has a wealth of experience in complex and high value clinical negligence claims.

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