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GPs should be given 'more guidance on tropical medicine' because of climate change

GPs should be given more guidance on the zika virus and other tropical diseases as a result of climate change, MPs have said.

In a Commons environmental audit committee report published this week, MPs outlined concerns that the NHS would not be prepared for the health problems that would result from a climate breakdown.

The ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ report said Public Health England should ‘broaden’ their focus to tackle tropical diseases such as zika, lyme disease and malaria and recommended that GPs should receive expanded guidance on this, the committee later clarified.

The report said: ‘Public Health England should broaden its key performance indicators to include climate resilience and adaptation measures to tackle emerging diseases. These should include guidance to general practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry on Lyme disease, malaria, the zika virus and other emerging tropical diseases.’

Public Health England said it publishes guidance for general practitioners on tropical diseases and updated its zika guidance earlier this year in a blog.

The body said it will consider the findings of the environmental audit committee on top of routinely reviewing its guidance of tropical diseases.

A PHE spokesperson said: 'Infectious diseases don't stand still and we expect climate change to alter the profile of diseases in England. Public Health England monitors patterns of emerging infections around the world, so we are prepared for current and future threats.'

In the report, the committee concluded it was 'concerned' that the NHS is not sufficiently resourced to deal with the 'more severe' impact greenhouse gas emissions will have on the health.

It said: ’Without rapid action to curb greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to safeguard the environment we risk causing irreversible damage to the planet. This is already having a significant and growing impact on human health, with impacts set to become more severe.

’We are concerned that the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry is not sufficiently resourced to deal with these projected changes.’

The report also called on the Government to promote more sustainable diets to benefit the environment and the population's health.

Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh MP said: ‘Everything we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. The health of the planet matters because it affects what we eat and whether we can eat in future. Nearly 20% of the UK’s fruit and vegetables come from countries at risk from climate breakdown.

‘We are facing a food security crisis, exacerbated by uncertainty over the UK’s future trading position with the EU and the rest of the world. Ministers must now publish all the information they hold from Operation Yellowhammer on food security and likely costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.’

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