Men suffering from erectile dysfunction can now seek advice and receive prescriptions from an online treatment service, staffed by clinicians from DrThom and the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust is the first NHS body to venture into online treatment, and has partnered with DrThom, the only medical service formally regulated by the Healthcare Commission to prescribe treatment online, set up by one of their own doctors Dr Thomas Van Every.

Together, they have launched a new service offering male patients the chance to have erectile dysfunction dealt with over the internet, rather than face-to-face in a sexual health clinic.

Ian Van Every, a director at Dr Thom, told E-Health Insider: “We have been providing a remote service since the middle of 2006, and are the only service backed by the Healthcare Commission and the General Medical Council. By offering this service, we are helping to make it easier for men to come forward and seek treatment. It can’t be underestimated that over 2m men in the UK suffer from the condition and need treatment.”

A patient using the service will register on the DrThom website and complete a free online questionnaire and subsequent dialogue allow a doctor to assess a patient’s suitability for treatment.

To answer the questionnaire, a patient will need to know their blood pressure. If a doctor judges that treatment is suitable, the patient has the opportunity to trial the treatment service for £45.

“The cost covers the time, prescription and the postage of drugs. You might think that it is cheaper to buy treatment such as Viagra from unsolicited websites found using Google but in fact, this is not the case. When you buy these drugs, you are put in charge of all liability – there is no clinician to refer back to. Here, everything is GMC regulations compliant, and doctors at Chelsea and Westminster are always on hand to help,” said Ian Van Every.

Patients pay online using a debit or credit card. A doctor will be able to prescribe all common treatments such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. DrThom will send treatment as first class recorded delivery.

To receive follow-up and ongoing treatment, a patient will need to contact DrThom via their online patient record and tell a doctor whether they suffered any side-effects and whether initial treatment was effective.

To comply with General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines on remote prescribing, a patient will be given the name and GMC number of the doctor who prescribed treatment.

Dr Simon Barton, clinical director for HIV and sexual health services at Chelsea and Westminster, said: “We hope that the launch of this service will be an important step in helping to improve standards of online healthcare in the UK. All clinical aspects of this new service are overseen by Chelsea and Westminster and all the doctors who prescribe treatment online are NHS specialists in sexual health.”

Ian Van Every said that the service was unique because it provided ‘real doctors, real medication, real medical care and no more Viagra cowboys.’

The website is now running under strict clinical guidelines from the trust and is open to any male residing in the UK. Last year, DrThom helped over 10,000 patients with postal treatment and they anticipate online support to be an even bigger success.

Dr Thomas Van Every, medical director at DrThom, said “In an ideal world, all men who suffer from erectile dysfunction would go to their GP for help. The reality is that embarrassment often prevents men from seeking treatment.

“By partnering with Chelsea and Westminster, DrThom will be able to offer a specialist, trustworthy and regulatory compliant online service that we see as a major step forward in men’s healthcare.”