The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is to be given the power to rate even more healthcare services, including online GP consultations.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health announced that it would allow the regulator to rate services which offer medical advice and prescriptions from GPs online, following a public consultation.

Currently, the CQC rates NHS and independent hospitals, general practices and adult social care services as being ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

The Department of Health said the expansion of the CQC’s rating powers would ensure patients have clear, accessible and independent information.

In response, the CQC said it would look into how these additional services should be inspected, and revealed plans to launch its own public consultation this year into how investigations should be carried out.

A CQC spokesman told Digital Health News the regulator hoped a rating system for online medical services would “make things clearer” for patients.

The news has been welcomed by private healthcare provider Babylon Health, which last year took the CQC to the High Court in an attempt to stop it publishing a report of its services.

Babylon, which has since dropped the legal case, claimed the report contained inaccuracies, and was critical of the regulator’s approach to inspecting online medical services.

“As the leading provider of digital healthcare in the UK, we have long been campaigning for all clinical services to be rated on the same basis so the public can have systematic and comparable information,” said Babylon’s associate medical director, Dr Matthew Noble.

“It has been a long process to achieve this relatively simple outcome. In our own experience for instance, it was hard work to get CQC to state that Babylon’s recent inspection puts it in the top quartile of most favourable reports.

“Moving forward, this parity in CQC’s inspection criteria is an important and progressive step by the regulator that will allow Britain to compete in the global race to provide ground-breaking digital health solutions to the world.”

The news has also been welcomed by NHS Digital, which said the expansion of the CQC’s powers “supports” the NHS-wide aim of providing “trusted advice”.