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Research uncovers lack of consistent travel health advice

New research commissioned by MASTA, a travel health service provider, has revealed that despite the majority of practice nurses saying they feel confident in providing travel advice to patients, the quality of this advice varies dramatically between practices.

This has real implications in terms of whether travelling patients are appropriately informed and protected when travelling overseas this year.
The research, which questioned nurses from across the UK, was designed to gain an understanding of the current sources of travel health information used by practice nurses, together with details of the advice they provided.
To facilitate this practice nurses were provided with a profile of a patient travelling to Ghana and asked to provide details of the diseases and vaccinations that would be discussed in this situation. Nurses were able to use their preferred source(s) of travel health information to make decisions about the case, replicating their clinic environment.
Despite 84% of nurses interviewed having over five years experience in the role, their knowledge was varied with only 13% likely to discuss a full range of risks and vaccinations for the traveller. In fact, of the eight disease risks that should be considered, only 60% of nurses discussed more than five.
The research also highlighted differences in the key facts about each disease communicated with the traveller, including some evident confusion between Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Despite the gaps in knowledge, most of the practice nurses were well versed in any potential side effects that vaccinations can cause. Also, awareness of the importance of non-medical prevention, such as food and water hygiene and bite avoidance was generally good.
Andrew Cameron, Marketing Director at MASTA Travel Health said: "It's clear from our research that there are large variations in travel advice from practice to practice, with a distinct lack of consistent travel advice/patient information across the board.
"With long haul booking and holiday season still in focus, travel health should be high on the agenda of all healthcare professionals. Making sure you stay on top of current travel health information is still an essential start point and our website ( lets you or your travelling patients' create travel health briefs for almost any itinerary."
Providing travel health services for over 25 years, MASTA provide information on all travel vaccines, anti-malarials and a host of other travel health related issues for travellers and practice nurses. MASTA also have the largest network of private travel clinics in the UK.

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I totally agree with B Lucas and L Shwenn. We're expected to be specialists in ANY and every area that we deal with patients and it's just not possible, especially when the GP employers
think we can keep updated with just 2 days' study time per year, as mine do. Travel can be complicated, even if it's a package holiday, and plenty of time is needed to cover even basic advice" - Carrie, Derbyshire

"Even MASTA's advisors don't always give the best advice! One of my patients - DM on gliclazide, AF on warfarin, CHD, depression, was told by a MASTA advisor that he only needed Hep A and typhoid prior to a month in the Philippines, visiting in-laws in a rural area. He's since been to me, too near to his travel date for anything else to be done. MASTA get your own house in order!" - Rol, East Midlands

"I think as practice nurses we need to insist that we need at least 20 mins for an initial travel app especially if complex - 30 mins would be best. Thereafter a 10 min slot just to give the vaccs would be appropriate. Nurses are responsible for their actions and need to make this very clear to their employees - mistakes happen if overstretched and important information is missed - there is a case of negligence. Travel agents are keen to get bookings not to necessarily inform of extra costs of vaccines. Gambia is a case in point - cheap to go but with vaccinations for a family the cost can go up enormously. I think if there is not enough time, patients should be told not all info can be given and advised to seek out private travel care-then it is their responsibility. Document to this effect" - Jane, Cambridge

"Absolutely agree with first comment by B Lucas. I have recently been on a very good travel vacc update in Hull at the Endsleigh Centre and feel that I do the best job I can in a safe manner. I wish management and GPs appreciated how much info we have to give patients. It's not a couple of quick injections that can be done in a 10 min appt. I use NATHNAC and advise the travellers to as well. My biggest concern is when all sites advise low risk, not no risk; you cannot predict what the hygiene in even a 5 star hotel will be like or what your patients may do while away so you advise on what info you are given. So it's always should or should you vacc on a low risk. When you dealing with human beings it is never textbook unfortunately" - L Shwenn, Hull

"There is little that can be done, practices are under immense pressure to provide services as promised by the government, and the public have come to expect everything they want in double quick time. Patients have to take some responsibility here; ie, don't arrive in a busy surgery expecting a full consultation 2 weeks before departure in a 10 minute consultation! Often I have patients coming to me who have had a very good and comprehensive consultation with a colleague, and when they return for further treatment, spend half the consultation questioning what they have already been advised, usually because they don't want to pay. It's about time the onus of responsibility was shifted to the traveller,
and any travel outside Western Europe/North America/Australia and NZ - where only basic jabs are sometimes needed - should be dealt with on a private basis in a dedicated travel clinic, not slotted in with leg dressings, ear syringes and child imms as it is now. A dedicated travel
health nurse would then stand a better chance of having more in depth comprehensive training paid for by private consultations. Maybe the public would then treat foreign travel with the importance and respect it deserves; would look after their vaccination books properly and would be less likely to get health problems abroad that they then bring home with them, expecting the NHS/tax payer to foot the bill" - B Lucas, Wiltshire 

"I run a travel health clinic in Manchester and am always happy to give travel advice when phoned to practice nurses which I do on a daily basis to nurses and GPs" - Karen Barraclough, Manchester