A new report released by The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned that nearly half of all NHS online health services in the UK are failing to provide a safe level of care to their patients. It also highlighted the dangerous volume of opioids that were being given to patients online, raising “significant concerns” over the safety of users of the service.
The number of prescriptions of opioids is particularly worrying for the health service given the current crisis in the US. There have been calls recently for reforms to be made in the way they are marketed and sold to consumers in America. A recent review has found that they are being given inappropriately in a large number of cases to tackle pain, despite there being little evidence of them being beneficial to patients.
The most recent inspections that were made to the online GP service indicated that as many as 43% of providers weren’t providing a level of care that was in line with regulations. This is a huge concern for the health service, and although improvements have been made, the report noted that this is partly due to a number of providers having their registration cancelled. Some of the other concerns raised included failure to safeguard children and inadequate reviews for patients on long term medication
The CQC report also said: “The prescription of long-term opioid analgesics [painkillers] in isolation from the wider healthcare system presents a source of significant concern. While not widespread, this issue was compounded by the volume of opioid analgesics being prescribed, and a lack of information sharing with the patient’s GP, both before and after prescribing.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s very concerning to see that even now, 43 per cent of online consultation providers have been deemed unsafe in some respect. New services will inevitably experience some teething problems, but when our patients’ health is at risk urgent, swift action must be taken to comprehensively address these before the service is rolled out further.”
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice at the CQC, added: “New methods of service delivery that increase access to care and give patients more control over how and when they see a GP have huge potential not only for patients but for the wider health system. However, while innovation should be encouraged, it must never come at the expense of quality.”
“As with all health care services, patient safety must be at the heart of all decisions around what kind of care is offered and how it is delivered. This is why we have taken action where we have seen risks to patients – and why we have been encouraged to see many providers take note of our findings and make swift improvements to how they operate.”