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Inspectors put 'inadequate' Suffolk online prescriptions service into special measures

PUBLISHED: 05:30 09 September 2019

A packet of prescription tablets. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

A packet of prescription tablets. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

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A Suffolk-based online private prescription service says it has "resolved all the points" in a highly critical Care Quality Commission (CQC) report.

PrivateDoc, based in Stowmarket, has been put into special measures after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated it as "inadequate".

The "inadequate" rating applied to all five areas inspected, as inspectors examined whether the service was safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

However, the company says it has addressed all the points raised and hopes to welcome inspectors back shortly.

Dr Rosie Benneyworth, chief inspector of primary medical services and integrated care, said in the report that urgent enforcement action had been taken, and conditions had been placed on PrivateDoc's registration.

The service has been running since 2012. It allows patients to request prescriptions through a website, by filling in a consultation form. The forms are reviewed by a GP, and a private prescription is issued if appropriate, and sent to the affiliated pharmacy.

The CQC carried out an announced inspection on July 1 - but, after reviewing concerns raised by an individual, it decided to carry out a second announced visit on July 15.

Report findings included:

- The process for completing patient identification checks was ineffective, so the CQC could not be sure the prescriptions were being issued to and delivered to the named account holder.

- There was evidence the provider had "knowingly ignored patient identification concerns", prescribing medicines to patients whom they knew were not the named account holder.

- Patients were provided with clinical advice by a non-clinical member of staff, who had received no prior training on the medicines they were providing advice for.

- Flaws in the provider's system allowed people requesting weight loss medicines to overwrite information such as their height, weight and body mass index.

- The service did not have a process for recording, handling and sharing learning from safety incidents.

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- There was no evidence of any quality improvement systems.

- The process for recording, handling and learning from complaints and feedback was not effective.

- Staff recruitment checks were not always completed.

- When patients were not accepted for treatment, they were given no advice or information about why they were not suitable for treatment, or where they could be treated instead.

- There was no documented evidence or audit trail about why each prescription request had been approved or declined.

- On the positive side, relevant instructions were given to patients about when and how to take the medicine and likely side effects, and what to do if they became unwell.

- Each medicine available on the website was also accompanied by additional information provided by the GP or medical director.

- The CQC also noted that the service was registered with Trustpilot, where it was rated as "Excellent" with five stars.

The CQC said the service must establish effective systems and processes to ensure good governance.

It should also review and improve systems on prescription-only medicines, and implement a system to retain medical records.

PrivateDoc will be inspected again within six months, and if insufficient improvements have been made, the CQC said it would "take action in line with our enforcement procedures to begin the process of preventing the provider from operating the service."

It warned: "This will lead to cancelling their registration or to varying the terms of their registration within six months if they do not improve."

But Paul Marshall, registered manager, said: "We are currently working with the CQC having resolved all of the points raised in their report. We have invited them to re-inspect the service now and hope to welcome them back on site in the coming weeks.

"At this time we continue to receive excellent patient feedback on both Trustpilot and Google reviews, and, whilst the report highlighted some areas for improvement, we have taken this as a positive means to improve the service overall."

He added: "Naturally we are proud of the business we have built in East Anglia."

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