Choosing an online healthcare service

Online healthcare services can be a convenient way to get medical advice, treatment and medicines. Find out a few tips for getting what you need from these services.
Images of online devices

There are many organisations offering online health services and information. It's important that we know which to use and how to use them. 

A reputable company should provide a safe and effective service. However, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have found that some services may put patients at risk, particularly when they prescribe medicines online.

Online doctor services provide online medical consultations and may issue prescriptions or arrange medical tests. If they are based in England, and treat people in England, the CQC will register and regulate most of them.

However, some companies operate in a way that means they fall outside of CQC’s scope of regulation, including online pharmacies who dispense medicines. To find out more about buying medicines online, including General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registration, you can read this information from the NHS.

Before you consider using an online healthcare service:

Find out:

  • Where they are based.
  • Which regulators they are registered with.

Services registered outside England may not be subject to the same registration standards as health services you may visit here.

Services must be registered with the Care Quality Commission if:

  • They are based in England.
  • They directly employ doctors registered with the General Medical Council (GMC).

You can look up services that are registered with the Care Quality Commission:

  • You can search for services on this website.
  • See the quality ratings and read reports of their inspections.
  • Visit this page to see how they inspect to check that they are meeting standards for safe, effective, high-quality and compassionate care.

If you plan to use an online healthcare service

If you plan to use an online healthcare service, visit the CQC website for some more tips.

Visit the website

If you have any concerns

If you are concerned about the medical advice or treatment you are offered you can share your experiences and tell the CQC about your care here.

Services that dispense medicines must also be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council.

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You can help make health and care services better by sharing your experiences and ideas.

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