Adequate vaccination advice to holidaymakers heading abroad for their summer holidays can help to avoid an unnecessary medicolegal claim, the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) urges.
A healthcare professional who fails in his or her duty of care by neglecting to offer appropriate and adequate advice – in addition to the right vaccinations or prophylaxis – is taking a huge risk, points out Dr Gail Gilmartin, medicolegal adviser for MDDUS.
"It's the time of year when people are heading off abroad for a carefree summer holiday," says Dr Gilmartin. "If they seek vaccinations or prophylaxis, the advice they receive at the same time must be adequate, or their doctor risks a claim."
The files of MDDUS include the case of one foreign traveller who died after contracting malaria. His doctor was accused of acting negligently by failing to advise him on how to take the drugs prescribed, but also by failing to advise on other preventive measures such as topical antimalarial lotions and mosquito nets. A six-figure sum settled the case.
The number of malaria cases among UK travellers is down by 12%, according to the Health Protection Agency (2007 figures). However, apparently four out of five (83%) travellers had not taken malaria prophylaxis and many of the rest had not taken what was recommended for their destination.
Adds Dr Gilmartin: "Malaria cases are thankfully down, but there is still a duty of care on doctors to advise patients on how to take antimalarial drugs correctly and how to minimise their chances of being bitten by mosquitoes."
"Yes. I use Travax. But the cost of antimalaria medication is a big issue to individuals, even if they have spent thousands on a holiday." - Mary Swinney, Hebburn Tyne & Wear
"Yes, we as nurses have access to the Travax and NaTHNaC websites which are updated regularly. We give handouts to patients to take away with them and malaria prophylaxis, if required, is discussed and information given so they can decide what they want to take (if there is a choice)." - Dawn Holt, North Wales