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Online pharmacy addresses CQC's warnings on patient safety

Frosts Pharmacy is “now providing safe, effective and well-led services” after meeting health regulator the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) requirements around patient care.

In March, the CQC announced a "programme of inspections" into "digital healthcare providers" in the UK, which will "prioritise those services it considers as potentially presenting a significant risk to patients".

Community pharmacy business Frosts Pharmacy Ltd – which trades under the name Oxford Online Pharmacy – was served with two “warning notices” by the CQC, after an inspection in January.

During the CQC’s January inspection, Frosts Pharmacy was found to be prescribing "large quantities of asthma inhalers without checking if the patient's condition was out of control or if a diagnosis had been confirmed". Frosts Pharmacy suspended the asthma inhaler service in response to the warning.

The CQC said Frosts Pharmacy had until April 3 to meet the “breaches in regulations” identified in the CQC’s inspection report.

In its follow-up inspection on June 12, the CQC found Frosts Pharmacy had met all the legal requirements and had also introduced “additional improvements”, and was “now providing safe, effective and well-led services in accordance with the relevant regulations” (see below).

"Delighted" to have met requirements

Commenting on the latest inspection, Frosts Pharmacy Group managing director Stuart Gale said: “We are delighted to be able to announce that we have passed the CQC’s [follow-up] inspection. Back in January, some areas for improvement were identified and we responded immediately, making the necessary changes.”

Among the improvements, Frosts Pharmacy undertook an audit to understand the reason for patients ordering asthma relievers, and at the time of the follow-up inspection, “were in the process of amending their consultation forms for patients to give details of their last reviews”, the CQC found.

A spokesperson for Frosts Pharmacy confirmed to C+D this morning that the asthma inhaler service remains suspended.

Systems had also been introduced to check patients’ identity, and to assist patients in the event of a medical emergency during consultation, the CQC said.

Despite now passing the CQC's "rigorous assessment process", Mr Gale said Frosts Pharmacy would “not rest on our laurels” and will continue to improve its online pharmacy offering.

Last month, Lloydspharmacy's online prescribing service became the first of 39 digital healthcare providers being inspected by the CQC to pass all of the regulator’s inspection requirements first time around.

The CQC’s key findings from the follow-up inspection

  • The provider had introduced a system to record, assess and manage significant events and incidents
  • Prescribing decisions were documented and made appropriately, based on medical history and made in line with risk assessed national guidance and best practice
  • The provider had introduced a new system to check patients’ identity and ensured that the system was consistently applied
  • Systems to manage and treat medical conditions had been reviewed and improved
  • Systems had been introduced to assist patients in the event of a medical emergency during consultation
  • Consent to care and treatment was sought in line with legislation and guidance and recorded
  • All staff had received training relating to the Mental Capacity Act 2005, health and safety and fire training
  • The provider had reviewed its systems and processes in relation to recruitment checks to ensure this was in line with legislation
  • Systems and processes had been introduced to ensure the effective governance of the service
  • The provider had ensured regular team meetings and clinical meetings were held and minutes from those meetings were documented and made available to all staff
  • Learning from complaints and feedback were shared with all staff. We found the provider had taken actions to make improvements and were now providing safe, effective and well-led services in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Source: Professor Steve Field, CQC chief inspector of General Practice

What do you make of the CQC's findings?

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