Tag: asylum seekers

Time for a change: retired GP volunteering to treat asylum seekers

Jim Newmark is a GP who has progressed in his career from senior partnership to salaried to volunteer doctor status. He feels that his Christian faith and family make up for his abysmal memory and gross humiliation in pub quizzes. In November 2015 I reached the first anniversary of my volunteer/honorary primary care contract that is specifically intended to help asylum seekers with complex needs. It has more than worked for me and as the months have gone by I have increasingly thought that it is an idea worth passing on. It is clear that the NHS will never, ever fund this group of patients adequately. Yet these are human beings, just like us. The obvious differences relate to the effects of their experiences. This is the very stuff of primary care – to be an advocate, to try to make sense of an undifferentiated mass of needs, to come up with a plan, and to have the freedom to follow this up. Nowadays, who in mainstream really has the time to do this? Hello and welcome to all those GPs who are approaching retirement, who used to love the job, who are financially secure, and who are looking round for things to do! I loved my job – the team is fantastic, the workload was manageable, and the patients are intensely rewarding to treat. It has involved learning...

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Refugee medicine: time to get our act together

Rebecca Farrington first worked overseas with refugees 20 years ago for MSF.  She is now a GPwSI in refugee mental health having worked in the UK as a GP with people seeking asylum for 10 years. She combines this with a clinical lecturer role at the University of Manchester and GP locums. Last month I joined Turkish, Dutch, Swiss and Irish GPs to run workshops about refugee children at Wonca Europe in Istanbul. The topic is hot and was mentioned by many speakers. Wonca produced a valuable statement encouraging doctors across the continent to uphold a migrant’s rights to equitable care “unconditionally and based on a set of core values” fundamental to the practice of family medicine. So how can we in the UK respond to the challenges? Delivery of primary care for asylum seekers in the UK is fragmented.  We have NGOs and foreign aid agencies in our cities struggling to find NHS care for the most vulnerable. There is undoubtedly goodwill amongst the GPs I meet, interest from trainees and First 5 doctors in knowing more, but there is little in the way of infrastructure and training. GPs are expected to ‘get on with it’, but asylum seekers are challenging patients. They don’t trust you and can’t navigate your system. They are often distressed, some having experienced trauma that is beyond your comprehension. Their priorities can be...

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