GMC urges patients to stay safe when going online for treatment

Patients are being warned stay safe when getting medicines or treatment online, as new guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC) comes into effect today (Monday 5 April).

Good practice in prescribing and managing medicines and devices reflects the increasing trend for patients to see healthcare professionals via remote and virtual consultations, which has become even more common during the pandemic.

The guidance, applicable for doctors working in the UK, makes clear that they should work to the same standards when prescribing remotely as they would when seeing patients face to face.

Patients accessing healthcare online are being urged to follow six ‘top tips’ to make sure any treatment or advice they receive is safe and right for them. They should:

  • Check if the online healthcare service and healthcare professionals working there are registered with UK regulators.
  • Ask questions about how the service works.
  • Answer questions honestly about their own health and medical history.
  • Find out their options for treatment and how to take any medicines they’re prescribed.
  • Expect to be asked for consent for information to be shared with other healthcare professionals involved in their care.
  • Check what after-care they will receive.

"Following these simple tips will help patients to stay safe when accessing care online."

Professor Colin Melville

GMC Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards

Professor Colin Melville, the GMC’s Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards, said:

‘The pandemic has made remote consultations a new reality for many of us. The overwhelming majority of doctors provide excellent care, whether they see patients in person or remotely.

‘But, sadly, there are exceptions. Our guidance makes it clear to doctors that the same principles of good practice apply whether a consultation is face to face or online. And following these simple tips will help patients to stay safe when accessing care online.’

The downloadable guide, How to keep safe when getting medicine or treatment online, has been produced by the GMC and eight other UK regulators; the Care Quality Commission, General Pharmaceutical Council, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.