Asylum seekers and refugees (ASR) coming to the United Kingdom find primary care services difficult to access, navigate and negotiate, and this is likely to have significant effects on their health, according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice.
The qualitative community-based study, carried out by researchers at the University of Manchester, recruited and interviewed ASRs by criterion-based sampling through voluntary community organisations. A total of 18 ASR completed face-to-face semi-structured interviews.
Dominant themes included language barriers and inadequate interpretation services; lack of awareness of the structure and function of the NHS; difficulty meeting the costs of dental care, prescription fees and transport to appointments; and the perception of discrimination relating to race, religion and immigration status.
In 2012, government policy changes aiming to decrease immigration included restricting entitlement to NHS services, followed by charging for health care, with some costs having to be paid before treatment. In 2017, NHS charges for overseas visitors were extended to include some community care for refused asylum seekers.
The authors of this latest study urge consideration of how access to primary care in the United Kingdom can be enhanced for often marginalised individuals with complex needs.