South East Wales

Websites selling medicine looked at by health watchdog

Pills falling out of a bottle Image copyright Getty Images

Two websites selling prescription medicines are having their registrations looked at by the Welsh health watchdog, the BBC has learned.

Gender GP, an online transgender clinic, and My Web Doctor have applied for registration with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW).

They are run by Abergavenny-based NHS GP Dr Helen Webberley.

The Welsh Government said all private clinics with a base in Wales must be registered.

HIW said it could not comment on any ongoing cases involving unregistered providers.

A number of websites selling prescription medicines have been reprimanded by the health watchdog in England - the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - after potentially putting patients at risk of harm.

One company has been suspended and another two have had conditions imposed on their registration.

Last month the CQC issued the first clear guidance on the standards it expects from websites selling prescription medications online.

One company, Doctor Matt Ltd, had its registration suspended for six months when the regulator found medications were being prescribed after a patient's application was assessed in only 17 seconds.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has warned that regulators outside England need to adopt the same guidelines for inspection to make sure patients are not being put at risk.

Image caption Dr Helen Webberley

Theoretically, companies could move to areas such as Wales with different inspection standards.

Dr Webberley, who is also the registered manager of the Doctor Matt website, said the 17-second prescription was "actually much longer than an NHS repeat prescription" would take to sign.

She said the patient had been on the medication for some time, and declared that their medical history had not changed.

She said there were some "rogue pharmacies", but denied that they included the services she works with.

Dr Webberley said her Welsh-based advice service was up and running before it was registered. But she said she realised it needed to be registered when it became a treatment service.

She added: "I put my application in for registration in September 2016 and I have completely complied with every angle of that."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "All private clinics or agencies with a base in Wales must be registered with HIW for the services they provide, regardless of whether it is on a face-to-face basis or online.

"Failure to do so could mean they are committing an offence and may result in action being taken against them".

HIW said while it and and its English equivalent - the CQC - operated under different legislative frameworks, they were both focused on "safe, effective care."

HIW said both bodies shared intelligence about regulated services in both countries.

But a spokesman said it "cannot comment on any ongoing cases involving unregistered providers".

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