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Flying Home advice updated to assist seriously ill patients travel abroad

Guidance on helping patients in the advanced stages of serious and terminal illness to travel abroad has been updated.
Flying Home

Guidance on helping patients in the advanced stages of serious and terminal illness to travel abroad has been updated.

The palliative care charity Hospice UK rewrote the Flying Home advice originally published in 1997 for nurses and other healthcare professionals who are called upon to make arrangements for patients.

These may either be people wanting to fly home to the country of their birth for the final time or those wanting to fulfil a desire on their wish list before they die.

Assessment protocols

Flying Home walks staff through the process of assessing fitness to fly, funding and insurance issues and the legalities to consider when travelling with medication.

It highlights how patients deemed too high risk for commercial flights may have to use an

Guidance on helping patients in the advanced stages of serious and terminal illness to travel abroad has been updated.


 Hospice UK has updated the Flying Home advice for terminally ill patients. Picture: Alamy

The palliative care charity Hospice UK rewrote the Flying Home advice – originally published in 1997 – for nurses and other healthcare professionals who are called upon to make arrangements for patients.

These may either be people wanting to fly home to the country of their birth for the final time or those wanting to fulfil a desire on their wish list before they die.

Assessment protocols

Flying Home walks staff through the process of assessing fitness to fly, funding and insurance issues and the legalities to consider when travelling with medication.

It highlights how patients deemed too high risk for commercial flights may have to use an air ambulance or repatriation agency, which can be expensive if they are not insured.

It also covers sensitive issues such as what to do if a relative or friend dies abroad.

Royal Marsden Hospital, London, ward sister Gemma Kane, who is familiar with the pressures associated with helping terminally ill patients to travel, welcomed the updated guidance.

Advanced care planning

‘The key is communication and advanced care planning,’ she said.

‘You often have only a short time between treatment being stopped – once it is clear that life is approaching the end – and a patient’s death.

‘It is vital to have a coordinated approach carried out by a multidisciplinary team and to understand the impact fulfilling a patients last wishes will have not only on them, but on their family.’

Ms Kane has helped patients to travel to the four countries of the UK, but also further afield to mainland Europe and even the Philippines.

Liaise with airport staff

She has overseen the transfer of patients from the hospital to the airport, liaised with airport staff to ensure they are aware of the patient’s condition and travelling arrangements – and spoken to colleagues in other countries to ensure the care they need continues once they arrive.

Ms Kane added: ‘Our responsibility for them does not just end once we get them on a plane. We stay in touch and find the feedback useful once the patient has passed away.

‘This new guidance is sure to be beneficial for nurses and will help them to help patients and their families create some happy memories.’

Further information

New guidance for care professionals supporting seriously ill patients who wish to travel overseas


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