Asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants

Patient and community health

Any refugee problems in the UK are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effects of the refugee crisis on children and adults across Europe, as well as further afield in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. At the end of 2020 around 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced by violence or armed conflicts, with 26.4 million living outside their country of origins. In 2020, more than two thirds of the refugees across the world came from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

Many UK general practices struggle to manage the rights and needs of refugees and asylum seekers to access the NHS, and may be unwilling to register them as patients because of confusion about the need for identification papers and other documentation.

The RCGP gets many requests about how GPs can help refugees and asylum seekers. This is a difficult problem and this advice aims only to provide some practical guidance for GPs who want to know and/or do more about helping these vulnerable people. Clearly there is still much more that could be said and done.

Currently the RCGP is actively reviewing how it can support members to deliver excellent healthcare to these vulnerable groups and how it can work within the health care community to advocate for system-wide improvements in the care of refugees and asylum seekers.

There is a glossary of terminology relating to asylum seekers and refugees in UK at the Refugee Council website.

Doctors of the World
The Doctors of the World network has more than 400 programmes in 80 countries; providing urgent medical care in Ukraine, giving mental healthcare to refugees in Calais, or strengthening health systems in West Africa to meet the health needs of vulnerable people globally. In the UK they run clinical and advocacy programmes in London and Brighton providing medical care, information and practical support to excluded groups including migrants with no fixed address and sex workers.

Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health
An independent, multi-disciplinary body focused on health care for homeless and excluded people.

Freedom from Torture
Medical Foundation for the Care for the Victims of Torture.

Healthcare Information For All (HIFA)
A worldwide virtual network open to all health professionals advocating for access to health information for all.

Help Refugees
The largest distributor of aid of any grassroots organisation across Europe, funding projects in 22 Refugee camps in Greece as well as camps and settlements in Paris, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

A charity for health professionals and others working to improve health worldwide. It conducts research and evidence-based campaigning for solutions to the social, political and economic conditions which damage health, deepen health inequalities and threaten peace and security.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
The MSF medical teams act fast to save people’s lives in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics. They go where they are needed most.

Physicians for Human Rights
PHR exists to stop mass atrocities (crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes) and acts that cause severe physical or mental harm to individuals.

Public Health England (previously Health Protection Agency’s) Migrant Health Guide (Health Protection Agency, 2011)
This offers country-specific information for health professionals, information on migrants ’ NHS entitlements, as well as translated patient information or environmental changes.

It's an international humanitarian NGO which supports aid organisations and other humanitarian actors across the world by developing skills and providing expertise. We act to ensure disaster-prone communities are resilient by giving them practical life-saving skills, advice, and support, which help them prepare for, respond to and recover from natural and man-made disasters.

Refugee Action
Signposts to all the different ways you can help (25 ways you can help refugees). It provides help and advice for refugees and asylum seekers on issues including the asylum process and how to access support. Support and advice for refugees and asylum seekers struggling with the asylum process, poverty and homelessness. Practical support and guidance for people who are resettling in the UK having fled conflict and persecution, and Local Authorities who are participating in Resettlement schemes.

Royal Medical Benevolent Fund
Refugee Doctors – retraining in the UK. If you are a refugee doctor retraining to practise medicine in the UK, and you are registered with a formally accepted RMBF programme partner, we may be able to help with a one off award.

Royal Society of Medicine
Has a section on global medicine and also cover issues regarding humanitarian issues like the effects of conflict and catastrophe on the health of children.

Safe Passage
Exists to help unaccompanied child refugees and vulnerable adults in Europe find safe, legal routes to the UK. There are programmes in Calais, Greece and Italy. When clients arrive in the UK, we support their transition to a new life. Safe Passage is powered by Citizens UK – a group that empowers community action. We combine the skills and resources of our staff and supporters to open doors, establish precedent and advocate for change. We are determined to find a way to give everyone fleeing persecution safe passage.

Still Human Still Here
Is a 8yr old coalition of 80 organisations that support asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. Its members include City Councils, OXFAM, the Children's Society, Amnesty International, Citizens Advice Bureau, Homeless Link, Crisis, Doctors of the World, National Aids Trust, Mind, the British Red Cross, a range of faith based organisations and all the main agencies working with refugees in the UK.

Still Human has worked closely with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to communicate member agencies' concerns about the impact that charging for healthcare has on vulnerable groups and is particularly worried about the impact the Government's proposals to extend charging to primary, A&E and other services will have on asylum seekers, refugees and other vulnerable people.

Tropical Health and Education Trust
Put health workers at the heart of our work. Forging partnerships with healthcare experts to deliver targeted training programmes in low and middle income countries.

UN Volunteers
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. We work with partners to integrate qualified, highly motivated and well supported UN Volunteers into development programming and promote the value and global recognition of volunteerism.

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
Volunteer doctors are urgently required in 24 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Refugee and displaced doctors

According to the BMA's latest figures, there are approximately 2,000 refugee doctors in the UK, many of whom pursue GP training to rebuild and continue their clinical career under a medical care system new to them.

There are many organisations and projects across the UK and Ireland who can support these doctors retrain, and for Refugee week 2022 the RCGP will launch an awareness campaign of podcasts, articles and blogs to help promote the experiences of displaced doctors, the organisations that support them and how GPs and the wider practice can care for them as patients or during their training.

This is a work in progress - please send your suggestions for changes and improvements to


REACHE was started in 2003 and is funded by HEE and we support refugee and asylum seeker healthcare professionals pass their UK licencing exams so they can work in the NHS.

We train doctors and other HCPs to pass their OET (Occupational English Exams ), offer individualised clinical training and supervision, organise 3 month post GMC registration clinical placements, help prepare for the PLAB exams, organise registration with the GMC and find Job whilst holistically managing their complex emotional and pastoral needs.

5 of our members in the past year have also been accepted onto GP training programs in hard to recruit to areas.

Time from joining REACHE to NHS employment ranges from 3 months to 2.5 years.

Some of the societal benefits of our work include an increase in the NHS workforce, mental health improvement of members and their dependents, increase in BAME role models, a positive representation of often maligned refugee and asylum seeking populations. There is also an academic output into migrant health education, a contribution to the social sciences, educational pedagogy and national policy.

267 REACHE doctors have gained substantive posts in the NHS and over 250 ex-members are now GPs, associate specialists or in non-substantive hospital posts, Nurses or Dentists in the NHS.


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