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Providing care to patients who are abroad

Post date: 04/02/2020 | Time to read article: 1 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 04/02/2020

Dilemma

Patients at our practice can communicate with us electronically, regardless of where they are in the world. Recently, a patient of mine contacted me from abroad saying she felt low and asked for advice regarding her medication and requested a call back. I advised her to seek help from local services.

Am I required to provide advice to patients while they are abroad?

Advice

It is not uncommon for patients to contact their GP while they are abroad. In instances where a clinician is unsure of where their patient is contacting them from, it is important to have a robust process in place to be able to establish the location of the patient so that appropriate advice can be given. 

We cannot provide advice on what steps you should take in order to identify the location of patients who request advice remotely, however the level of information they provide should be sufficient for you to be happy that you are speaking to someone within the UK. You should record this in the patient’s medical records, alongside the details of the consultation.

  • Listen to the patient

It would be unreasonable for you to decline to speak to the patient simply because they are abroad (which may not become apparent until you speak with the patient). A practice policy which stipulates that doctors should not speak to patients when abroad could lead to further medicolegal issues and potential complaints.

  • Assess the situation

Do you have sufficient information and knowledge of the patient to be able to make a safe assessment of the situation? When speaking with a patient it is vital you have a low threshold for suggesting that the patient seeks advice locally. You could give any reasonable and/or pragmatic advice or information (bearing in mind the limitations of a telephone consultation and the jurisdictional issues).

  • Guidance on remote consultations

There are risks associated with remote consultations (telephone, online or video link). GMC guidance prompts clinicians to consider whether a remote consultation is appropriate as there are potential patient safety risks to consulting remotely. It's important to identify and manage those risks, and to recognise that remote consultations are not always the right choice.

Contact us

If you are unsure or need advice, call Medical Protection now and speak to our experts for further guidance.

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