The Care Quality Commission is to get new powers to award quality ratings to wider range of healthcare services, including websites for medical advice and prescriptions from GPs online.

The watchdog already rates NHS and independent hospitals, general practices and adult social care services as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate.

Expanding this remit so that all providers of care in England will be rated by the CQC “means that people will have clear, accessible and independent information about even more of their healthcare services in England,” the group said.

In September last year the Department of Health confirmed that the CQC’s scope would be broadened to include rating independent healthcare providers.

At the same time, the DH launched another public consultation outlining proposals that CQC ratings become the default way of presenting judgments from its inspections, which have now been accepted.

The regulator will now develop an approach for how it will rate additional services, with help from a public consultation that is to be launched sometime this year.

“CQC’s ratings of health and care services are helping people to make informed choices about their care as well as supporting providers to improve. Never before has the public had such clear information about the quality and safety of their health and care services,” noted the watchdog’s chief executive, Sir David Behan.

“CQC already inspects and publishes reports for these additional services and so, the ability to award ratings to them will bring increased transparency for the public about the quality and safety of their healthcare.”

Commenting on the move, Hazel Jones, programme director for Apps and Wearables at NHS Digital, said: “We welcome the introduction of the CQC's new rating scheme for digital GP tools, which supports the NHS-wide aim to provide reassurance and trusted advice around the growing number of digital healthcare tools available.

“This rating scheme will complement the NHS apps library, which aims to provide trusted digital tools for patients and the public to manage and improve their health.”