In March, the CQC announced a "programme of inspections" into digital healthcare providers in the UK, which it said would "prioritise those services it considers as potentially presenting a significant risk to patients".
Thirty-nine providers are expected to be investigated by autumn, the CQC confirmed to C+D earlier this month.
In its latest inspection report published today (July 18), the CQC found that Lloydspharmacy’s Online Doctor service is providing “safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led services” – becoming the first of the providers in the inspection cohort to pass each of the five areas covered by a CQC inspection.
Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor – registered with the CQC under the trading name Expert Health Limited – allows patients to be managed by a doctor remotely and then receive their medicines.
The CQC noted that “approximately 70%” of its 1.3 million registered users choose to collect their medicine from a pharmacy.
Sainsbury’s branches contribute to positive results
Lloydspharmacy claimed its online service “has the largest network of pharmacies directly linked to an online doctor service”.
The CQC did not inspect the multiple’s “affiliated pharmacies” when investigating the online prescribing and GP consultation service. However, the regulator did recognise the improved outcomes that Lloydspharmacy’s combined on-and-offline approach to healthcare had produced.
Reviews of consultations and prescribing practices every six months revealed a 2% prescribing error rate, compared to national average of 7.5%, while an audit demonstrated that just 1.3% of users of its emergency contraception service had become pregnant “compared to a national average of 2.5% to 6%”, the CQC noted.
Lloydspharmacy's parent company Celesio UK bought all 281 Sainsbury’s pharmacies in 2015, with the handover completed in September 2016. The “ability of patients to collect prescriptions from Sainsbury’s branches during the supermarkets’ extended [operating] hours” had “facilitated the positive results” for the sexual health service, the CQC concluded.
It noted that certain medicines have to be collected in-store to allow a face-to-face interaction, including the first prescription for weight loss medicine or a contraceptive.
Amanda Dorkes, Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor’s clinical director, said the company’s “blended approach goes far beyond simply prescribing medication”.
Lloydspharmacy’s 15 GPs, and one independent prescribing pharmacist, are alerted to circumstances where patients require face-to-face care and are directed to go into a bricks-and-mortar Lloydspharmacy, Ms Dorkes said.
Andy Sloman, Lloydspharmacy Online Doctor managing director, said: “The results of our CQC inspection clearly highlight a way forward for an industry that has been called into question recently.”
Last week, Boots confirmed to C+D that its online services were inspected by the CQC "a few weeks ago" and it expects to receive the report "in approximately six weeks".