Principles for good practice issued to protect patients online

Ten principles underpinned by existing standards and guidance

Healthcare organisations including regulators, royal colleges and faculties, are today (Friday 8 November) issuing a set of principles to help protect patient safety and welfare when accessing potentially-harmful medications online or over the phone.

The jointly-agreed High level principles for good practice in remote consultations and prescribing set out the good practice expected of healthcare professionals when prescribing medication online.

The ten principles underpinned by existing standards and guidance, include that healthcare professionals are expected to:

  • 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.

These principles apply to all healthcare professionals involved in providing consultations and medication to patients remotely, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and opticians.

The publication follows the release, in September, of a joint statement by healthcare regulators, which included a commitment to work together and with partner organisations to develop shared principles on remote consultations and prescribing.

The principles have been co-authored and agreed by:

The Nursing and Midwifery Council, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Care Quality Commission, Faculty of Pain Medicine, General Dental Council, General Medical Council, General Optical Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, our Chief Executive and Registrar, said:                               

“As health and care innovates and improves, it’s positive that people can access more convenient ways to seek advice, treatment and medication in relation to their individual health and care needs.

“At the same time, it’s so important that collectively we do all we can to ensure this experience comes with the same standards of quality that everyone rightly expects to see in more traditional health and care settings.

“With around ten percent of the nurses and midwives on our NMC register holding prescribing qualifications, the Code already sets out how they can demonstrate they are appropriately supporting and protecting people seeking their care.

“But there’s always more we can do to strengthen best practice across all health and care settings and so, I’m pleased the NMC has been a part of developing these principles together with our other regulatory partners.

“I hope this guidance helps to clarify further what safe and effective consultations and prescribing practice looks and feels like for the benefit of everyone involved.”


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