Primary care practitioners can now access a broad range of information to help them look after patients who have come to live in the UK from abroad, following today's launch of a free-to-use online resource by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
The Migrant Health Guide is intended to be a "one stop shop" for information to support GPs and nurses in assessing and treating migrant patients, in recognition of the fact that these patients sometimes have health needs which are more complex than those of UK born patients.
It will provide health professionals with the information they require quickly and easily and it is hoped that this will, in turn, improve patient care and quality of life.
The guide covers a wide variety of health issues that may affect migrant patients including infectious diseases. Although most migrants to the UK are healthy, infections such as TB and HIV are more common elsewhere in the world than they are in the UK.
The new resource will support health care practitioners in diagnosing and managing a range of infectious and other conditions that may be relevant to migrants from different countries. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is important for the health of the individual patient and also to reduce the risk of onward transmission of some infections.
The guide has been developed by a team of clinical and public health experts, as well as primary care practitioners, in collaboration with the HPA's travel and migrant health section. It has been endorsed by both the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Nursing.
The HPA's Dr Jane Jones, who led the development of the Migrant Health Guide, said:
"More people in the world are migrating today than at any other point in human history. One consequence of this change is that primary care practitioners in the UK may be caring for patients with health issues with which they are unfamiliar, and they need information and support to be able to do this with confidence.
"As a former GP, I'm aware that busy practitioners do not have the time to do all the internet searching that is currently required to obtain information about the health needs of people from different countries. With the launch of the Migrant Health Guide, doctors and nurses will have at their fingertips a wealth of information and resources on the health issues that are associated with over 100 specific countries – and we have designed the content in such a way that it can be accessed within the confines of a ten minute consultation.
"We hope that through providing this support, practitioners will be better placed to look after their migrant patients. Knowing the right issues to consider based in part on a person's country of origin can mean the difference between a health problem going undetected and the patient accessing appropriate care and support services."
HPA chairman, Dr David Heymann, added:
"A key role of the HPA is to provide advice and information on issues of public health to specific audiences, so I'm delighted that we've led on the development of this invaluable online resource.
"Disease doesn't recognise geographical borders, so it's crucial that primary care practitioners expand their knowledge of the health issues associated with countries outside the UK if we are to tackle pressing global health issues such as TB, HIV and malaria, to name but a few."
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