RCGP releases new guidance on online consultation services

The new guidance issued by the Royal College of GPs comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that four in 10 online GP firms are not providing safe care.

[London, UK] The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has released new guidance for patients considering the use of online services that offer planned or actual consultations as an increasing number of providers hit the market. 

The guidance comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that 43% of online providers of primary care services did not meet the safety standards set by NHS GP practices. 

The RCGP document includes information for GPs, GP practices and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that might consider introducing a platform offering online consultation services for their local population.  

RCGP Vice Chair Professor Martin Marshall said new platforms have to be implemented safely and securely, in a way that could help alleviate pressures on primary care.

"Online consultations can seem like a very convenient option for accessing general practice services, particularly for young, generally healthy people who want to see a GP quickly. 

"But the ways some online services are provided raise patient safety concerns - people need to be aware of these, and properly understand what they are signing up to. Often, for example, patients will have consultations with unfamiliar GPs who don't have access to their full patient records," Professor Marshall explained. 

Patients should check, among others, whether: 

  • The service has been inspected by the CQC
  • The provider has access to their GP records
  • Personal data is kept ‘safe and confidential’, and if it is shared for any other purposes other than direct care.  

The RCGP has also provided guidance for GPs looking to join a firm offering online primary care services, advising them to ensure that the clinical care provided would be as ‘safe’ as the one offered face-to-face.

“We hope this guidance will help everyone – patients, GPs, practice team members and commissioners - gain a better insight into online consultations, and, most importantly, help equip them with the information they need, so that patients are receiving high-quality, safe care, whichever way they choose to receive it,” Professor Marshall added. 

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