Are Online Consultations Safe?

Getting an appointment with a GP can be a bit of a nightmare these days.  I needed to get a really simple prescription for going off on holiday. I needed an antimalarial as I was going to Kenya and I was also going to be having my period while away so I wanted to delay that by using a medication called Norethisterone. My GP could not see me and I could not even get to speak to someone who could organise the prescriptions for me to pop in and pick up.  The whole thing was massively frustrating.

A friend then recommended that I try to find a doctor online. I was a bit dubious about going down this route as you just don’t know who you are dealing with. I mean, is the person on the website even a real doctor and how do I know that I am getting real medication? Imagine if I thought that I was taking Malarone to protect me from malaria and it turns out that I was taking sugar pills; the consequences could be horrendous.

Anyway, because I write on medical matters it was relatively easy for me to speak to the people in the know to find out if this sort of distance prescribing is legitimate and reliable. I was told that the websites need to be licensed by the Care Quality Commission in the UK and that pharmacy needs to be licensed by the General Pharmaceutical Council. This is obviously a great way of checking so long as the company is not posting fake information on the website. The good thing about the Care Quality Commission and the General Pharmaceutical Council is that they actually list the websites that are licensed so that you can check that the website that you are using is the one that has been inspected.

I used this clinic – and found them to be very reliable. I got my consultation online and the doctor was back to me in about 15 minutes with treatment recommendations. The products arrived the next morning by Royal Mail Special Delivery, which I had delivered at work and everything was very discreetly packaged.

Clearly this sort of consultation will not be appropriate for every medical eventuality but for low risk medications and conditions, it seems like a very convenient method – especially if you lead a busy life and have an uncooperative NHS GP like mine.