The CQC, which has inspected every company that provides such online services in England, said that by February, 43 per cent were not providing “safe” care or adhering to regulations.It warned that technological advances should never be used at the expense of quality care, which prioritised patient safety.The CQC said it would continue to hold providers to account until they became as safe as general practices. It’s very concerning to see that even now, 43 per cent of online consultation providers have been deemed unsafe in some respectProfessor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs Nearly half of online GPs are providing unsafe care for patients, the health watchdog has warned.Independent online services, including pharmacies, websites and apps, are prescribing high volumes of painkillers without talking to the patients’ GPs and are inappropriately prescribing antibiotics, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.It also expressed concern that approaches to safeguarding children and those lacking the mental capacity to understand or consent to a consultation may be unsatisfactory and that the prescribing of medicines for long-term conditions could be inappropriate.Providers were also failing to collect patient information or share it with the relevant doctor, who should have accurate records of treatments and health problems. The watchdog did highlight positive findings, including a company that provides sexual health services online, with partner notification services where, with consent, it can confidentially trace at-risk sexual contacts. Show more The CQC found online consultations had the potential to improve access and the convenience of some patients, including those who found attending clinics or surgeries difficult through disability or through living in rural areas with poor transport.Professor Steve Field, CQC chief inspector of General Practice, said: “New methods of service delivery that increase access to care and give patients more control over how and when they see a GP have huge potential for patients and the health system.“However, it must never come at the expense of quality. Patient safety must be at the heart of all decisions around what kind of care is offered and how it is delivered.” The CQC noted that the 43 per cent deemed unsafe was an improvement from the 86 per cent it found on its first round of inspections.Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s absolutely right that the Care Quality Commission holds organisations that provide online primary care services to the same high standards as any other healthcare provider.“But it’s very concerning to see that even now, 43 per cent of online consultation providers have been deemed unsafe in some respect.“When patients’ health is at risk urgent, swift action must be taken to comprehensively address these before the service is rolled out further.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.