Encourage business travellers to declare medical history, advises insurer

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Employers should encourage staff who travel internationally to declare their medical history to avoid the risk of complications while abroad, an insurer has argued.

Insurance broker Towergate Health & Protection (formerly The Health Insurance Group) said being aware of any medical conditions meant that an organisation could carry out a risk assessment before the employee travels to ensure the trip does not put them at risk. For example, it said a worker with asthma might struggle in areas with severe air pollution, such as Beijing.

It warned that medicines available in the UK might be inaccessible or banned abroad. The NHS recommends that travellers should take a copy of their prescription and a letter from their GP outlining the health condition that the medicine has been prescribed for to avoid any problems at customs or assist healthcare staff.

“Trying to deal with a medical situation once it has happened can be stressful and costly. Businesses should try and avoid this by ensuring that the medical records of their employees are up to date, so provisions can be made to support an ongoing health condition. This could be anything from sourcing additional support, such as having GPs at home available for video calls, to suggesting an alternative foreign assignment,” said Sarah Dennis, head of international for Towergate Health & Protection.

Employers were also urged to make sure staff who required regular healthcare appointments are assigned to a location where suitable medical facilities are available. It said that in Azerbaijan, for example, medical facilities are limited and serious illness and injury may require transport to another country.

Dennis recommended that organisations put robust plans in place should a posted employee need medical assistance, including a plan for evacuation.

“Businesses need to ensure that employees fully understand their duty to disclose their medical history before travelling for work, so appropriate support can be provided if required,” she added.

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