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NHS ‘inaccurately’ advises patients to talk to their GP about travel plans

NHS communications teams are using social media to advise patients to talk to their GP about travel plans.

But GPs, who are overwhelmed with workload, have pointed out that ‘this is not within the remit of NHS general practice’.

And an NHS England director has now also raised the issue with the UK communications team.

NHS UK – an account operated by NHS Digital – posted the message over the weekend on Twitter and Facebook, which are verified to distribute resources to tens of thousands of followers.

Linking to an NHS information page about bringing medicine abroad, one shared image read: ‘Talk to your GP about your travel plans. They will tell you if you need to make any special arrangements’.

Dr Irfan Malik, a GP partner in Nottingham, was one of several GPs who used Twitter to urge NHS UK to ‘delete’ the ‘inaccurate post’.

He told Pulse: ‘At a time when GPs are overwhelmed and patients struggle to get appointments, it is very unfortunate that the NHS UK Facebook page and Twitter are unable to appropriately signpost the public requiring travel advice. If they can’t get it right, who can?’

Cambridgeshire LMC chief executive Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer also appealed via Twitter to NHS England’s primary care directors Dr Nikki Kanani, Dr Ursula Montgomery and Dr Kiren Collison to ‘ensure one part of the organisation speaks to the other’ and ‘amend the comms’.

Dr Kanani said she has now raised it with the NHS UK team.

An NHS Digital spokesperson told Pulse: ‘Our tweet encouraged people taking medication to visit the NHS website for relevant advice before preparing to travel abroad, which includes information about the rules for different countries and guidance on carrying medicines and medical equipment safely.’

NHS Vale of York CCG also shared the advice on Twitter yesterday morning, in a message that said: ‘If you’re going away this summer and need to take medicines with you: Talk to your GP about your travel plans.’

However, the tweet has since been deleted.

Hundreds of patients also commented on NHS UK’s Facebook post.

One said: ‘Talk to your GP yeah sure I’ll be back home before my call is answered lol’.

However other patients pointed out it was ‘incorrect advise’, with one posting: ‘This is an inappropriate use of GP time and wouldn’t actually even serve any purpose –  GPs are not involved with travel regulations and services.

‘Misinformation such as this is one of the reasons GP services are overwhelmed… how can this page not know this?!’

Last year, NHS England asked GPs to be ‘sympathetic’ to patients asking for last-minute travel support.

And by later that summer, airlines were continuing to ask travellers exempt from wearing Covid face masks to obtain medical certificates – which saw the BMA warn that such requests would distract GPs as overseas travel resumed post-pandemic.


Patrufini Duffy 28 June, 2022 1:41 pm

A patient called from Gibraltar last week.
Asked for us to send antibiotics to her (because it is a UK territory) for a UTI after her night on a bender.
Then raised her voice as couldn’t understand why this was not possible.
Another, called from Lanzarote – and wanted “spare antibiotics” ready for when he landed at the airport for his infection (after yes, more gallivanting).
Then a patient wanted head injury advice from Italy because she didn’t trust the pharmacist there. Wanted us to call Italy.

Well done NHSE – making the workforce look like fools.
Not long left.

Patrufini Duffy 28 June, 2022 1:48 pm

You know what “special arrangement” you need – to not bother the NHS when your return off your flight. Medicine has blended into trivial banter these days. Banter.