DOCTORS who prescribe remotely must meet the same standards as they do when seeing patients face to face.
Updated guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC) makes it clear that the same key elements must be covered, such as carrying out an adequate assessment, establishing a dialogue and obtaining patient consent.
Good practice in prescribing and managing medicines and devices has been amended to offer more detailed advice to doctors who are increasingly seeing patients via remote and virtual consultations.
There is specific guidance for doctors prescribing remotely for patients in nursing homes or hospices, and those who are based overseas.
Other key updates include:
- New advice for doctors not to prescribe controlled drugs unless they have access to patient records, except in emergencies.
- Stronger advice on information sharing, making it clear that if a patient refuses consent to share information with other relevant health professionals it may be unsafe to prescribe.
- Alignment with the GMC’s updated Decision making and consent guidance, highlighting the importance of good two-way dialogue between patients and doctors in all settings.
Professor Colin Melville, the GMC’s Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards, acknowledged the "enormous pressure" the profession is under as the pandemic continues and the vaccination programme is rolled out across the UK.
He said: "Our updated guidance supports doctors who are navigating what for many has become a new reality of remote medicine, helping them to maintain good patient care in these incredibly challenging circumstances.
"It’s vital that the principles of good practice apply, whether a consultation is face to face or remote."
The guidance, which takes effect from April 5, has been welcomed by MDDUS.
MDDUS chief medical officer Dr John Holden said: "We welcome this update from the GMC, and in particular the helpful focus it takes on supporting doctors with prescribing decisions taken during remote consultations, as these are now commonplace due to Covid-19.
"I am reassured that the decision to publish the update now has clearly been taken with all of the impacts of the pandemic in mind."
A recent survey of the MDDUS membership found many doctors needed more support with remote consulting. More than a third of GPs (37 per cent) said they found treating their patients by remote consultation very or extremely challenging. Of those, almost half (46 per cent) said they didn’t have access to the tools needed to confidently make decisions.