Companies that allow patients to get prescription medicines online could be risking their health, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned.
An investigation found two firms, MD Direct (assetchemist.co.uk) and HR Healthcare Ltd (treated.com), failed to get details of patients’ medical history.
There were also doubts about whether its workers were sufficiently skilled or qualified to issue diagnoses and prescriptions.
The CQC found no processes for contacting a patient’s GP, even in cases requiring monitoring or a follow-up appointment.
Inspectors also found medics failed to carry out identity checks and had no way of checking if patients lacked the capacity to consent to treatments.
The CQC has suspended the registration of HR Healthcare Ltd, while MD Direct voluntarily cancelled its registration.
Assetchemist.co.uk now uses another online GP provider for its prescription service.
A review of all 43 online services registered with the CQC raised concerns that other websites may also be putting patients at risk.
It is particularly worried about those which allow patients to self-diagnose and choose their own medicine from a drop-down menu.
The prescription is then reviewed by a medic before a pharmacist dispenses it.
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice at the CQC, said it was important for healthcare services to innovate but that some operated “with little or limited clinical oversight”.
He said: “Patients can go online, self-diagnose their condition, order their own medicine and obtain a prescription from the online doctor service, with minimal checks on who they say they are and whether the medication is safe or appropriate for them, often within a matter of seconds.
“We know there are often inadequate identity checks, no checks on patient history or suitability, no checks with patients’ GPs, and no follow-ups or monitoring.”
Sites that risk patients’ health would have their registration cancelled or suspended, added Professor Field.
He said the CQC would now be visiting each online provider registered with the commission to check they are operating responsibly.