CQC take action against online doctor’s service for providing unregistered services

Published: 18 February 2022 Page last updated: 18 February 2022

A Stockport online doctor’s service has been ordered to pay £13,670 after pleading guilty to providing services without being registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Pharmacorp Ltd (also known as Medicine Direct), was carrying out a regulated activity while unregistered with the CQC between 1 August 2018 and 1 July 2019. The provider was fined £3,500 at Tameside Magistrates’ Court today (Friday, 18 February). The company was also ordered to pay £10,000 costs and a £170 victim surcharge as a result of the prosecution brought by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Medication, including high strength co-codamol, pregabalin and gabapentin was being prescribed to patients by individual GMC registered doctors who were based in Romania, following the completion of an online questionnaire. The medication was then sent to the patients by post from Pharmacorp’s premises in Stockport. Their website was mis-leading and suggested that they were using UK based doctors.

This service exposed patients to a significant risk of harm, due to them completing prescription requests while unregulated and by using an online questionnaire which carried the real risk of misdiagnosis. Without access to the patients’ GP notes, the doctor would have been unable to confirm that the information provided in the questionnaire by the patients was accurate.

CQC requires digital providers, who use doctor consultation services to be registered as a provider for the regulated activity of the treatment of disease, disorder or injury.

It is an offence under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 to carry out a regulated activity – in this case, providing doctor consultation services - without being registered with CQC.

Emma Boger, CQC’s head of registration, said:

“I hope this outcome sends a clear message to others that where we find providers operating outside of the law, we will always use our enforcement powers to protect people and hold them to account to stop poor and illegal practice.

“It’s unacceptable that Pharmacorp Ltd put people at risk by running a service without the benefit of CQC registration, so I welcome their guilty plea.

“The registration process is important to appropriately assess services before they care for people. Services are then monitored and inspected to ensure that they continue to meet standards that people should be able to expect. Unregistered services operate without oversight, putting people at risk of harm.

“When we find providers operating illegally, we do not hesitate to act to protect people.”

For enquiries about this press release please email regional.engagement@cqc.org.uk.

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About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.