NEW guidance on remote consulting and prescribing has been published by 13 healthcare organisations.
The guidance sets out "high level principles" of good practice designed to safeguard patients who access medical and dental care online, via video link or by phone.
Aimed at those with prescribing responsibilities, the 10 principles have been agreed by the GMC, GDC and other organisations, including royal colleges and faculties.
Among the key points, it states that healthcare professionals should:
- understand how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them
- carry out clinical assessments and medical record checks to ensure medication is safe and appropriate
- raise concerns when adequate patient safeguards aren’t in place.
The principles apply to all those involved in providing consultations and medication to patients remotely, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and opticians.
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey, said: “The flexibility of accessing healthcare online can benefit patients, but it is imperative these services do not impact on their safety, especially when doctors are prescribing high-risk medicines.
“Doctors working for online services have the same obligations to follow our guidance and to prescribe safely as they would do for face-to-face consultations.”
He continued: “These principles will remind all healthcare professionals of the importance of prioritising the safety and welfare of patients when prescribing medication remotely, and will help facilitate a culture where unsafe practice is called out and acted on."
The principles were welcomed by MDDUS joint deputy head of medical division Dr Susan Gibson-Smith.
She said: “It is reassuring to see healthcare regulators and organisations reinforce the need to mitigate against the risks associated with clinicians treating patients remotely when they have little or no access to their medical records.
“For example, contact with vulnerable patients requires a heightened level of awareness, as in our experience issues can arise if safeguarding clues are missed during remote consultations, or when arrangements for following up with the patient are not adequate.”
She added: “We are also reassured that the principles advise UK-based healthcare professionals on important considerations should they be asked to provide remote services to patients abroad, emphasising the potential indemnity and regulatory difficulties with this.”