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Trailblazer GP Blogs

British Red Cross Session

By Julie Duodu (Trailblazer GP 2019/20)

21/02/2020

Today we were illuminated about and humbled by the incredible work undertaken by the British Red Cross. 

This session was delivered by the incredible and passionate Susan Morley, whom is a fabulous ambassador for The British Red Cross as a whole and in particular the South Yorkshire branch.

The session started with a thoughtful quiz which deftly demonstrated how the tapestry of British heritage both past and present is full of migration and how several migrants and their descendants whom would be classed as refugees today have massively contributed to our society and culture. In essence “refugees are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations”.

It was incredibly helpful to revise the relevant terminology and to consider the small proportion of refugees who come to the UK and the countries they have originated from in recent years.

I really appreciated how Susan broke down the asylum process, and the expectations and restrictions placed on those seeking asylum in the UK. It gives me greater insight into what some of my patients are enduring and it must take a toll psychologically. The uncertainty, the legal minefield and the threat of being detained along the way, must be greatly unsettling and disturbing to say the least. It was useful to learn about the assistance the Red Cross gives at each stage, be it linking clients up with Solicitors and accessing legal help, helping people better understand the asylum process themselves and what evidence to gather, financial or practical support to plug the gaps the £37:50 per person per week or less (or in failed asylum cases, non at all) does not reach, such as transportation to mandatory sign in sessions at the Home Office etc. It was great to learn how the Red Cross links in with other charities and organisations whom work to help people settle in the UK and navigate the whole tumultuous process of seeking asylum and beyond. This includes helping those seeking asylum to access health and social services, accessing English language lessons and activities to look after wellbeing such as involvement in volunteering.

It was interesting to find out the other arms of the organisation- family tracing, health and welfare, attestation of detention and the “trace the face” an innovative means to help people find loved ones whom have become separated and out of touch. It was heart-warming to see how the hard work of the organisation can get people back in touch with each other.

This was an incredibly informative session. I previously had been aware of the work of the British Red Cross on the ground in places of conflict or in refugee camps. It was interesting to learn about the hard work which takes place here in the UK in the various strands of the organisation. This session and the improved comprehension of what those seeking asylum have to endure is bound to pay dividends through my increased awareness and empathy towards patients for whom this is a current inescapable reality. I am grateful for this and hope to further put into practice the message of the British Red Cross and its message about the power of kindness.

With thanks to the Susan Morley and the South Yorkshire British Red Cross team for facilitating this session.

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Trailblazer GP Blogs

Migrant health at Bevan

3rd May 2019

Migrant Health – session by Dr Andrew Lephard, GP at Bevan Healthcare.

This week we had a session on Migrant Health by Andy Lephard, a senior GP at Bevan Healthcare who has been working in this sector for over 10 years and has often done teaching sessions on this subject due to his experience of this type of general practice.

Andy talked about the different ways that people can arrive in the UK – through refugee resettlement programmes, asylum seeking, being trafficked into the country. He told us about the asylum process and where patients tend to struggle – and why. They go through an initial interview, then later on a substantive interview which can last many hours. Then they receive a decision about their asylum application (it can take many months, although is only supposed to be a maximum of 6 months), and at that point they have 28 days to get themselves sorted with “normal” benefits and amenities (housing, universal credit, bank account etc) before their asylum support is stopped. Many people hit a crisis at this point as they may still not speak English and may have mental health problems, not know the area and not be in a good place psychologically or financially to get all these things sorted. Housing takes money and time – after living on asylum seeker benefits of £35 per week it is going to be quite hard to afford a deposit.

Asylum seekers are usually not allowed to work and are given approx. £35 per week to live with. Their accommodation and heating/bills are paid for but are often in areas of the country with low rents and the standard of accommodation is often low. They are moved around the country with little notice and have to sign in frequently at the home office so are not free to move around. During the process of travelling from their home country, many families are separated. Once someone has been accepted as refugee they have the right to family reunion (1st degree family members only and there are some stipulations) so many families might consider sending only one family member (paying to get across the world is expensive) and then reunite later. However also in other cases families may get shipped to different countries and some be claiming asylum in different parts of the world. Andy talked about the effects this has on people and the frustration and powerlessness that seems prevalent in many people stuck in this situation. The feeling that they have escaped the danger but life is harder than it used to be. 

We learned about VPRS and GPP refugee resettlement schemes – a lot of people at Bevan have arrived through these means and they run new arrivals clinics for these people to discuss immunisations, general check ups and to introduce people to UK healthcare systems. These people do not have to go through the asylum system as they are already accepted as refugees. They are supported fully for a year after arrival and the difference in the way they are treated compared to asylum seekers who have arrived in the UK off their own back is quite huge. 

People arriving on the VPRS (vulnerable person refugee scheme) will have come from UN refugee camps and be identified as particularly vulnerable – often with children who have serious health conditions that cannot be managed in a refugee camp. The GPP scheme is similar but is for any refugee from certain conflicts only, and they do not have to be particularly vulnerable. It does make the mind boggle a bit to wonder just how people would be chosen for these schemes, given the millions of people across the world still stuck in refugee camps. 

After this session I felt that I understood these common migration methods much better and understood more about how healthcare needs to adapt to fit the difficulties that people in this situation can experience. Particularly mental health and orientation to the NHS. It stressed the importance of knowledge of charities that can help support people in need, and of non-medical support services (e.g. social prescribing) in helping new arrivals to integrate into their new local community. 

Dr Helen Barclay