More work needs to be done to support vulnerable migrants and refugees access primary health care services, according to a new report by the Oxford charity Refugee Resource.
The report, which was produced with the support of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, explored the primary healthcare needs of asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees in the city of Oxford, as there was anecdotal evidence that this group, were among those facing the greatest barriers in accessing services. This group, one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged in society, also tends to live in the most deprived areas.
The report was aimed at addressing health inequalities in the city, identifying the issues faced by healthcare providers in delivering services to this group, and making recommendations to improve access for these patients.
The study found that, with a few exceptions, most of the refugees, asylum-seekers and vulnerable migrants interviewed have had positive experiences of accessing primary health care in the UK.
Most were very appreciative of the treatment received and the compassion and sensitivity shown by health care professionals toward them. Nevertheless, they face a range of linguistic, cultural and administrative barriers to accessing appropriate care.
The health care professionals involved in the study were all committed to delivering an equitable service for this patient group, and were clearly doing all they could to provide an exemplary service.
Nevertheless, they also faced many challenges in meeting the needs of this group who can present with complex health issues related to their experiences of war, torture, exile and loss, as well as the challenges of adjusting to a new life in the UK, often with little or no English.
As a result of the findings of this report, Refugee Resource has made a number of recommendations for the providers and commissioners of primary care services, including:
- Recognising that the health needs of this group is a key inequality issue that requires specific support and resources;
- Making funding available to allow those GP surgeries which see a large number of migrants to offer an enhanced service with longer appointment times;
- Making interpreters more readily available;
- Carrying out awareness-raising/training among healthcare professionals to increase their understanding of the experiences and primary health care needs of this patient group;
- Outreach work in communities with high numbers of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants to orient them to primary health care services.
Executive Director of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, Rosalind Pearce, said: “This report shows that while much has been done to improve access to GP services by this vulnerable group of patients, there are still some fairly straightforward steps that need to be taken to support them further. We hope the providers of these services will take these recommendations on board.”
Kate Hood, Director of Refugee Resource said: “We hope that the findings of this report will help the providers of primary health care to better understand, and meet, the specific and complex health needs of refugee, asylum seeking and vulnerable migrant communities.
“The findings show that most primary health care professionals in Oxford are committed to providing accessible services but still face challenges in doing so. The implementation of the recommendations suggested in the report will hopefully lead to a system of more equal health provision for all, including for the refugee and migrant groups in our society.’