Travel Health

This was an interesting conversation with a GP.

I overheard the receptionist say to a patient “Why don’t you go to Superdrug?” Well this is not something you often hear in a GP practice. And the practice nurse jumped in with ‘ask for Jackie – she will sort you out’. This was followed by a supportive smile and a nod of agreement by both members of staff.

On the way out a patient in the waiting room joined in with ‘they are very good, I always go there’. What is going on? This is hardly the way to run general practice so it is important for everyone to be suitably quizzed!

The patient wanted advice about travelling to the Far East on holiday and rather than booking the patient into the travel health clinic, they were referring the patient to a community pharmacy. They say that this is routine now and the patients are OK with it. In fact they seem to support it. So I had to go and investigate….

I have to say that I had to push my way past shoppers and isles of cosmetics and sundries, but I arrived adjacent to the pharmacy section to a sign that said ‘Travel Health Service’. It looked professional and there were leaflets and a large map on the wall.

I asked for Jackie and was met by a nurse – ‘I know you’  – I suddenly blurted out. Yes she was an ex-practice nurse that was now working for Superdrug – who would have guessed!

Her office was small, but professional and she explained that she worked with the pharmacist to deliver a full travel service including yellow fever and rabies. They had expanded and now there were three part time nurses that run the service. They will prescribe/supply malaria treatments and administer vaccines and offer travel health advice. There was a whole section of stuff that I might need from flight socks, through mosquito repellents to nets and everything you could think of all in one place.

I left both pleasantly surprised and a little annoyed. Why didn’t I know about this service and it was probably better than the one offered in the practice.

The practice nurse was happy to admit that she saw less patients now for travel advice – “they have a better set up and can offer more than we can – it is not as if I haven’t got other things to do”. Do you still offer a travel health service – ‘yes of course we do – there are patients who want to see us – but many seem happy with the community pharmacy and there are a few that we have to refer there anyway’.

So what a learning exercise that was. An hour a week of senior practice nurse time saved and the patients actually get a better service.


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