A online doctor’s service has pleaded guilty to providing services without Care Quality Commission (CQC) registration and has been ordered to pay £13,670.

Stockport-based Pharamcorp Ltd, also known as Medicine Direct, was found to be carrying out a regulated activity while unregistered with the CQC between 1 August 2018 and 1 July 2019 and has subsequently been fined £3,500 at Tameside Magistrates’ Court, ordered to pay £10,000 in costs, and a £170 victim surcharge.

The prosecution, brought by the CQC, showed that medication, including high strength co-codamol, pregabalin and gabapentin was being prescribed to patients by individual GMC [General Medical Council] registered doctors based in Romania, following the completion of an online questionnaire. The medication was then sent to the patients by post from Pharmacorp’s premises in Stockport.

The prosecution claimed Pharmacorp’s website was mis-leading, with suggestions that they were using UK based doctors. As a result, patients were exposed to a significant risk of harm, due to them completing prescription requests while unregulated and by using an online questionnaire which carried the real risk of misdiagnosis.

Without access to the patients’ GP notes, the doctor would not have been able to confirm that the information provided in the questionnaire by the patients was accurate.

The CQC requires digital providers who use doctor consultation services to be registered as a provider for the regulated activity of the treatment of disease, disorder or injury. It is therefore an offence under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 to carry out a regulated activity – as Pharmacorp Ltd were doing – without being registered with the CQC.

Emma Boger, head of registration at CQC, said: “I hope this outcome sends a clear message to others that where we find providers operating outside of the law, we will always use our enforcement powers to protect people and hold them to account to stop poor and illegal practice.

“It’s unacceptable that Pharmacorp Ltd put people at risk by running a service without the benefit of CQC registration, so I welcome their guilty plea.

“The registration process is important to appropriately assess services before they care for people. Services are then monitored and inspected to ensure that they continue to meet standards that people should be able to expect.

“Unregistered services operate without oversight, putting people at risk of harm. When we find providers operating illegally, we do not hesitate to act to protect people.”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. They ensure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and encourage care services to improve.

Last year, Livi became the first online GP provider to be rated ‘outstanding’ by the CQC.