GPs and their practices should be prepared for prescription requests from travellers stranded both here and abroad, following the airspace shutdown of the last six days, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has advised.
The MPS says that the recent flight restrictions, which have only resumed slowly today (21 April 2010), mean that many travellers could be running low on their prescription medicines.
Despite aviation officials lifting the airspace ban on Tuesday night, delays and cancellations are still occurring, with speculation that it could take weeks for the airline service to return to normal.
Overseas visitors to the UK stranded here may need to visit a GP and, similarly, UK nationals stranded overseas may need to seek a renewed prescription from a local doctor.
The MPS says it has started to receive enquiries from its members who are experiencing issues arising from the flight restrictions, including clinical issues relating to foreign nationals needing prescription-only medication.
GPs have a duty to provide immediate and necessary treatment, regardless of whether a patient is entitled to NHS care – this includes prescriptions for medication, without which the patient's condition may worsen.
Dr Nick Clements, Head of Medical Services, MPS, said: "It's probable that practices will be approached by overseas nationals requiring repeat prescriptions for their medication.
"As new patients, UK doctors will need to ensure they have all the relevant medical information in order to prescribe medication to overseas visitors. This may be challenging with communication barriers and time differences between countries if you need to contact the patient's doctor in their home country."
He added that the flight restrictions had posed "real issues for UK nationals overseas who have run out of their medication and are trying to get a repeat prescription. They may not have the packaging from their medication to show the local doctor, and in many cases, the medication may be known by a different name in that country."
Dr Clements said: "We expect that UK practices may receive enquiries from either their patients abroad or from the local doctor their patient visits. Where they receive enquiries from a doctor or practice in another country, UK doctors should ensure they have the patient's consent to release their medical information, including details of their prescription medicine."
Dr Clements advises that when providing medical information to either the patient directly, or to the overseas practice with the patient's consent, UK doctors should observe the following advice:
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