The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has condemned another digital healthcare provider as unsafe, not well led and ineffective.

The CQC has found issues with Pharmacy 2U’s patient identification, prescriptions and asthma care.

It comes after private online GP service Push Doctor had also been found to be delivering unsafe care in a damning report by the health and social care regulatory authority.

Pharmacy 2U operates an online clinic for patients providing consultations, prescriptions and medicines. It claim to be the first and largest online pharmacy in the UK.

Pharmacy2U has already taken immediate action to rectify some of the issues after the CQC report was published on 29 June.

A spokesperson for the Leeds-based company said in a statement that Pharmacy2U values the CQC’s report and is “implementing the improvements suggested”.  

“We have continued to operate the service according to the advice and guidance given in that report, but welcome the new guidelines put in place by the CQC, which are now specific to online medical services and came into effect after our latest inspection.”

The CQC report said that issues with patient identification occurred as “there could be still doubt about the identity of the patient requesting a prescription”.

There was also no system in place to minimise the risk of patients under 18 getting medicines covertly, the CQC said.

Doctors at the digital pharmacy were also found to be prescribing medicines for “off-label” use.  “This meant that patients may not have been clear on how to use the medicines for an unlicensed condition”, read the report. This issue has been now been resolved by the company.

There were also prescription quality issues as there was no monitoring system in place. “This meant the provider could not be assured doctors were prescribing medicines safely and effectively in accordance with their treatment protocols.”

Specifically for asthma care, the treatment “was not being delivered in line with current evidence based guidance and standards”, the CQC said. Again, this has now been updated by Pharmacy 2U.

The company has previously faced issues when patients were left without essential medication for weeks.

In January last year, Digital Health News reported that Pharmacy 2U left patients without their medication as it struggled with technical problems at a new warehouse facility. The company said the issue was caused by transferring its prescription dispensing service to a new automated facility, leading to “unexpected delays for some orders”.

Despite this, the internet pharmacy expanded its business last year, with the opening of a new 30,000 square foot warehouse.

In May 2016 the company unveiled a £3.5 million “state of the art prescription fulfilment facility” in Leeds, that will increase its capacity ten times and enable it to dispatch a million prescription items a month.

A spokesperson for the company, reacting to the CQC report, also said that Pharmacy2U has undertaken more than 180,000 consultations without a patient complaint.

Since last October the CQC has been providing more scrutiny for digital health services.


In April the health and social care regulator cracked down on potentially unsafe online prescribers that fail to carry out adequate identity checks or to review a patient’s medical history, and used its urgent enforcement powers to suspend registrations or impose conditions on four online prescribers.

The flurry of digital healthcare providers being found unsafe could also be due to the CQC operating a risk stratified approach to inspections.