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GPs advised not to give phone consultations to travelling patients

GPs in one area have been advised not to consult with patients over the phone while they are abroad, even just for a short time.

Sheffield LMC said the advice comes after they were ‘made aware’ that some GPs were not indemnified to carry out telephone consultations ‘with patients who are outside the UK’ for less than three months.

Patients who are abroad for longer than three months are not allowed to register with a practice in the UK at all.

In its monthly newsletter, Sheffield LMC said: ‘For those people who are overseas for a short period, it is a matter for individual practices to decide how to deal with requests for advice.

‘However, we have been made aware of a defence organisation’s indemnity provision being limited to UK patients only, and that members are not indemnified for telephone consultations carried out with patients who are outside the UK.

‘In view of this, we would advise against offering telephone advice to patients while abroad.’

Dr Caroline Fryar, MDU head of advisory services, said their memberships ‘require both the doctor and patient to be located in the UK at the time the patient is advised or treated’.

But she said there is ‘a degree of discretion’ in that if a patient contacts their GP ‘whilst the patient was on holiday with an enquiry about a longstanding condition’ the MDU ‘would have no difficulty with the GP providing the advice or information sought’.

Dr Fryar told Pulse: ‘If, however, that patient contacted their GP in the UK to seek medical advice about a new condition that had arisen while they were abroad and potentially needed managing abroad (for example gastroenteritis, sunburn or an injury) it would be prudent for their UK-based GP to advise they seek local assessment and management.

‘Registered practice patients who are only abroad transiently are clearly unlikely to later make a claim in that foreign jurisdiction, but attempting to provide remote management of conditions presenting abroad raises issues relating to medical registration, professional responsibility and jurisdiction as well as indemnity.’

The advice comes as NHS England is pushing for GPs to consult remotely to a greater extent, including a GP Forward View £45m investment towards online consultations.