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Community pharmacy

Healthcare regulator asks pharmacists to 'consider the limitations' of providing online services

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has asked pharmacists to “consider the limitations” of providing services online when deciding on the scope of practice they can provide.

The guidance comes as part of the GPhC’s ‘High-level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing’, published on 8 November 2019 and co-authored by a range of healthcare regulators and bodies, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Care Quality Commission.

The ten principles aim “to help protect patient safety and welfare when accessing potentially-harmful medication online or over the phone”, and cover topics such as understanding how to identify vulnerable patients, and carrying out clinical assessments and medical record checks to ensure medication is safe.

“It is important for healthcare professionals and employers to consider the limitations of remote services when deciding the scope of practice and range of medicines prescribed,” the guidance says.

“Some categories of medicines are not suitable to be prescribed remotely unless certain safeguards are in place.”

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said: “There are particular risks with prescribing medicines online that have to be effectively managed by the prescriber.”

“These new principles make clear what all health professionals, including pharmacists, are expected to do when prescribing online.”

Sandra Gidley, president of the RPS, added: “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 of the same quality and standard as a bricks-and-mortar pharmacy.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207314

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