Minutes of a meeting of the PSI Council in June show that member Mr Sean Reilly, a pharmacist, sought the opinion of Council members and the Registrar regarding the issuing of prescriptions from online doctors. This was particularly in relation to antibiotics, “which, anecdotally, were proving increasingly popular with patients”.
According to the minutes: “The Registrar stated that this was one example of the types of new service options which were likely to become more common in the future and which might pose challenges for regulators.
“He went on to say that, without pre-judging anything, he would encourage relevant stakeholders to come and talk to the PSI regarding their intentions as regards new types of services, so long as any such proposals were in line with existing legislation and patient safety principles.”
Council member Mr Fintan Foy, CEO of the ICGP, said the College had concerns about online doctors “and had written to the Medical Council previously, specifically regarding their quality, and level, of prescribing”.
Ms Nicola Cantwell, Vice-President of the Council, noted that pharmacists were being asked to measure a patient’s blood pressure and BMI prior to supplying oral contraceptives on foot of these prescriptions. She said the PSI should consider issuing guidance to the profession regarding prescriptions from online doctors.
“The Registrar noted the discussions and concerns of Council members regarding these prescriptions but also noted that the regulation of doctors was a matter for the Medical Council, and that pharmacists already had clear responsibilities under various legislative provisions on which guidance was already available.”
The PSI issued a practice update to registrants in 2015 on dispensing prescriptions from online doctor services, a spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI).
“In essence, as with any other prescription, the pharmacist must be satisfied that a prescription written by an online doctor complies with the legislation in place which governs the safe supply of medicines to a patient,” said the PSI spokesperson.
Online doctors and their regulation fall under the remit of the Medical Council, they added. However, the PSI “is keeping under consideration what impacts this changing and innovative area of health service provision may have on the regulation of pharmacies and pharmacists, and as a result their patients”.
According to the Medical Council’s ethical guide, doctors must satisfy themselves that services provided through telemedicine are safe and suitable for patients.
The Department of Health confirmed that doctors outside of this jurisdiction do not need to register with the Irish Medical Council when providing telemedicine services.