GPhC issues warning about online prescribing practice

The PDA welcomes an announcement from the regulator about “Patient safety concerns relating to online prescribing services.”

Thu 12th August 2021 The PDA

Pharmacy owners and pharmacists must deliver safe high-quality patient care whether this is undertaken face to face with a patient or at a distance.  As a pharmacist led organisation with extensive experience of situations where these issues have occurred, the PDA supports members to protect patients and reduce their exposure to personal risk.

The concerns of the regulator reflect PDA member experiences and the PDA welcome this statement. The PDA has significant expertise in supporting pharmacists to exercise their professional autonomy in the interests of patients, as well as enforcing individual employment rights to challenge inappropriate pressure from employers, including through protected disclosures (whistleblowing).

Mark Pitt, Director of Defence Services at the PDA, says: “The PDA is seeing a significant uplift in members seeking support and legal representation regarding regulatory investigations into online prescribing pharmacies. Our employment legal team are also representing pharmacist whistle-blowers who are concerned about poor patient care, through swift and effective intervention to protect their legal position.”

Members who are concerned about unsafe practices by their employer should contact the PDA service centre for advice at the earliest opportunity by emailing enquiries@the-pda.org.

The Full GPhC statement says:

We are reminding pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals that they need to make sure they meet our standards and follow our guidance for providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet, whenever they provide online pharmacy services.

Our inspectors are continuing to identify serious patient safety concerns relating to registered pharmacies dispensing of prescription-only medicines from prescribers based in the EEA working alone or for third-party online prescribing service using online questionnaire-only based models.

Our Director of Insight, Intelligence and Inspection, Claire Bryce-Smith, has written to organisations representing pharmacies and pharmacy professionals to highlight these patient safety concerns and to ask the organisations to help us to remind their members and networks of the importance of meeting our standards and following our guidance.

Claire’s letter highlights that since April 2019, we have taken enforcement action against over 40 pharmacies linked to their provision of online pharmacy services. The majority of these pharmacies were working with online prescribing services that were prescribing medicines which are liable to abuse, misuse and overuse to people, on the basis of an online questionnaire. The pharmacists involved have also been referred for Fitness to Practise investigations.

Related link

  • Download the GPhC letter here

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