Government tells patients 'speak to your GP' about post-Brexit travel insurance

BMA leaders are set to challenge the government over advice that patients travelling to Europe after 31 October should ask their GP how to get the correct travel insurance.

Westminster (Photo: allinvisuality/Getty Images)
Westminster (Photo: allinvisuality/Getty Images)

Updated DHSC advice on 'Healthcare after Brexit: visiting the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland' declares that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October - and offers advice on 'how to prepare for Brexit'.

The guidance warns anyone travelling to Europe that they will need travel insurance, and informs patients with pre-existing health conditions to 'speak to your GP and insurer about how to get the right cover and how this affects your travel'.

BMA GP committee workload lead Dr Farah Jameel told GPonline that the government advice was 'another example of poor planning' around Brexit.

NHS threat

Her comments came after the BMA issued a stark warning on Monday that a no deal Brexit threatened to trigger 'disintegration' of the NHS.

Dr Jameel said it was not right that the government should expect GPs already working under significant pressure to 'bear the brunt' of poor planning - and warned it was simply not the role of a GP to provide advice on appropriate travel insurance.

The guidance, updated by the government after a weekend that saw thousands of people across the UK protesting over plans to shut down parliament in the run-up to Brexit, says patients should 'make plans for how to manage your condition when you are abroad'.

It says: 'Ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Take a health condition identification or letter with you when you travel. This should say what medication you are taking.'

Travel insurance

The guidance adds: 'It is important to take out comprehensive travel insurance when you go abroad, both to EU and non-EU destinations. You should continue to buy travel insurance if you are planning to travel after Brexit.

'Check that your insurance has the necessary healthcare coverage to ensure you can get any treatment you might need. For example, if you have a pre-existing condition.'

The advice warns that European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) 'may not be valid if there is a no-deal Brexit' - but points out that travel insurance is required even in conjunction with a valid EHIC.

Dr Jameel said: 'The BMA has been clear of the risk that Brexit will have on the NHS, staff and patients– and this is another example of poor planning impacting the health of the nation.

'While GPs will advise their patients around how to look after themselves while they are abroad, it is not their responsibility to recommend whether travel insurance policies are suitable or not. This discussion needs to take place directly between the patient and their insurer.

'It is not right, when they have significant workload pressures already, that GPs are forced to bear the brunt of Brexit policy, and we will be taking this up with the government directly.'

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