Guidance for online prescribing issued ‘to protect patients’

Thousands of healthcare professionals undertake consultations by phone or by video-link.

Emily Hawthorn
19 November 2019
medication box

Remote consultations and online prescribing can save resources but involve numerous risks.

A new set of principles have been published in order to help conserve patient safety and welfare for remote consultations and online prescribing.


Agreed by numerous healthcare organisations and regulators, the principles outline the good practice expected of the healthcare professionals that prescribe medication remotely.

While remote consultations and prescribing online, by phone or by video-link benefit patients, save resources and help in the effort to meet public demand for more convenient access to healthcare, numerous risks are involved.

Private online services such as Babylon allow access to a healthcare professional 24 hours a day and some NHS 111 providers run remote services.

Nurses are expected to adhere to these principles.

The principles seek to address these risks, particularly under circumstances where access to comprehensive medical records are limited, or the practitioner is not the regular healthcare provider to the patient.


The principles expect healthcare professionals to;

  • Understand how to identify vulnerable patients and take appropriate steps to protect them.
  • Share all relevant information that supports ongoing treatment and monitoring with the relevant parties unless the patient expresses otherwise.
  • Raise concerns if adequate measures to safeguard patients are not in place.

All healthcare professionals that are involved in providing consultations and medication remotely are expected to adhere to these principles, which includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and opticians.

Ten percent nurses hold prescribing qualifications.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, the Chief Executive and Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council 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.

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