International medical activists celebrate Universal Health Coverage Day

Published 11th December 2018

Today and tomorrow, international activists and advocates will gather in London to share ideas and opportunities in the fight for better healthcare access.

 

With funding from the EUAID Volunteers initiative, Doctors of the World UK have organised the conference to mark Universal Health Coverage Day and bring together medical and civil society professionals to share ideas for healthcare advocacy.

 

The event will explore the challenges and solutions to equitable healthcare for everyone, regardless of their immigration status, socioeconomic status or any other characteristic. It will have and skills and learning focus, with today’s workshops on the power of patient voice from the Say It Loud Club, on medical activism from Docs Not Cops and Medact and international partnership working from PICUM.

 

Tomorrow’s sessions will focus on challenging policing and immigration enforcement in healthcare, with workshops exploring options around firewalling, healthcare in detention and defending patient confidentiality regardless of immigration status.

 

We’d like to thank our EU Aid collaborators, Médecins du Monde Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium as well as the EU Aid Volunteers initiative for helping to make this happen. The EU Aid initiative aims at strengthening the capacities of local communities and organisations to improve access to healthcare and respond to emergencies.

 

Make sure to follow us on Twitter as we share exciting ideas for achieving Universal Health Coverage in the UK, Europe and beyond.

 

 

#LondonUHC2018

Alongside Doctor Mukwege, Doctors of the World is on the front line, helping to fight against sexual violence

Published 10th December 2018

Since 2015, Doctors of the World (through its Belgian office) has been the privileged partner of Doctor Mukwege and Panzi hospital, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This support is crucial for the project, which remains fragile despite the international recognition of its founder.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Doctor Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.” After spending several years travelling the world to spread word of his cause and winning a number of awards (United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament, etc.), Doctor Mukwege was emotional when he learnt that he had been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. “Dear survivors around the world, I would like to tell you that, through this prize, the world is listening to you and refuses to remain indifferent,” stated the man who, 20 years ago, began his long fight against sexual violence.

Twenty years of struggle

Doctor Mukwege founded Panzi hospital in 1999, in Bukavu (Democratic Republic of the Congo). There, he discovered a tragedy deliberately caused by armed groups: the mutilation of women’s genitals. Deeply touched by the countless victims, Doctor Mukwege quickly specialised to become a world leader in ‘repairing’ the survivors of sexual violence, making Panzi hospital a place providing care, welcome and social healing.

A mission under threat

However, not everyone is a fan of Doctor Mukwege’s activities. While his struggle receives more recognition and media attention, he regularly receives threats on his life.The threats continue today,” he explains. “We always receive one or two a week, but rather than discouraging us, we face up to them.

The Congolese authorities do not have a positive view of the work of Doctor Mukwege, who has never hesitated to talk about the political problems in the DRC. “Several times, the hospital has had excessive taxes imposed on it, which other hospitals do not pay. They clearly want to prevent us from doing our work.” It is to support the work – which is crucial but constantly under threat – of Doctor Mukwege that Doctors of the World formed a partnership with Panzi hospital in 2015.

With Doctors of the World, fighting sexual violence

With Doctor Mukwege, we started from the idea of a shared utopia: one where victims of sexual violence are cared for but also recognised as victims,” explains Éric Wynants, coordinator for Doctors of the World at Panzi hospital.

At the hospital, Doctors of the World provides two of the four pillars of the project’s ‘holistic’ approach: medical care and psycho-social care. The two other pillars – legal assistance and socio-economic reintegration – are provided by other parties, including the Panzi Foundation. “This is the benefit of this system, which has been recognised and replicated in several countries: it is not a medical intervention with no follow-up, but instead comprehensive care to allow survivors to resume their lives under the best conditions.

Since 2015, the partnership between Doctors of the World and Panzi hospital has been bearing fruit. “First financially, as despite our renown and the importance of the work done there, Panzi hospital is almost entirely dependent on international support,” stresses Éric Wynants. “Next, the advocacy of Doctor Mukwege is significantly amplified by Doctors of the World, in particular through our international network.

Finally, the collaboration has been very productive in the field, where good medical practices, expertise in various areas related to sexual violence and in the use of tools are shared between the teams.

The future of women

Today, in the DRC, rape is not only a weapon of war, but a common practice among civilians, especially former child soldiers. The victims themselves are increasingly young, with some being under 10 years old. But for all this, Doctor Mukwege believes the future will be better. Things have changed since he started, 20 years ago. “Congolese women are mobilising. Today, they have the courage to speak out, to stand before courts, to bring their tormentors to account.”

This is a change that the work of Doctor Mukwege has contributed to heavily, and that Doctors of the World will continue to support in the years to come.

 

Joint INGO Statement Welcoming The Upcoming Consultations In Sweden

Published 6th December 2018

International NGOs working in Yemen welcome the upcoming political consultations in Sweden. After almost four years of conflict in Yemen, up to 14 million people – 50 per cent of Yemen’s population – do not know where their next meal will come from. An estimated 85,000 children under five are presumed to have died from extreme hunger or disease since 2015.[1]

The magnitude of the ongoing conflict in Yemen and its humanitarian toll has led to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock warned of the urgent risk of a massive famine in a recent UN Security Council briefing and suggested five urgent steps to offset this catastrophe. Chief among these steps is ending the ongoing violence throughout the country, and removing obstacles to imports and domestic distribution of essential goods to avoid a full-fledged famine.

We strongly hope that these consultations are the first step towards a peace process that will help put an end to the violence and dramatic food and health crises in Yemen and will  lead to positive developments for the people of Yemen.

[1] https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/news/media-centre/press-releases/yemen–85-000-children-may-have-died-from-starvation-since-start

Health groups appeal European Patent Office decision to uphold Gilead’s patent on hepatitis C drug

Published 5th December 2018

Paris, 5 December 2018—Six organisations have just appealed the European Patent Office’s September decision to uphold US pharmaceutical corporation Gilead Science’s patent on the key hepatitis C drug sofosbuvir. The appeal – filed by Doctors of the World, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), AIDES (France), Access to Medicines Ireland, Praksis (Greece) and Salud por Derecho (Spain) – states that the European Patent Office (EPO) should revoke Gilead’s patent because it does not meet the requirements to be a patentable invention from a legal or scientific perspective.

The appeal comes exactly five years after sofosbuvir was first approved for use, in the US, where Gilead launched the drug at US$1,000 per pill, or $84,000 for a 12-week treatment course. The corporation has made more than $10 billion in profit from sales of the drug in the last five years.

In March 2017, 33 civil society organisations from 17 European countries filed a challenge against Gilead’s patent on the base compound of sofosbuvir, stating that Gilead’s patent claims were not legitimate, primarily because they lack inventiveness.

Gilead’s monopoly on sofosbuvir in Europe has allowed the corporation to charge excessive prices for the drug. In some European countries, Gilead charges as much as 43,000 euros for a twelve-week treatment course, when generic versions of the same course can be purchased for less than 75 euros outside of Europe. These exorbitant prices have forced health systems to ration sofosbuvir, leaving thousands of people in Europe with hepatitis C without treatment.

However, despite compelling arguments presented by the organisations opposing the patent, on 14 September 2018, the EPO decided to uphold Gilead’s patent, thereby making it impossible to produce or sell affordable generic versions of the drug in Europe.

“The EPO is being too lenient with pharmaceutical corporations, giving them a free pass,” said Olivier Maguet of Doctors of the World’s drug pricing campaign. “There needs to be much greater scrutiny in Europe when it comes to determining whether pharmaceutical corporations deserve patents or not; otherwise, unmerited monopolies will continue to result in out-of-control drug pric­­­es.”

The appeal aims to put an end to pharmaceutical corporations’ abuse of medicines patent systems to increase profitsin countries outside Europe, where patent offices often follow the EPO’s decisions when they examine patents filed by pharmaceutical corporations. As some new patented drugs – such as those to treat cancer – come to market with price tags reaching 400,000 euros per person, there is an urgent need to reform patent systems so that people have access to the medicines they need to stay healthy and alive.

“Unmerited patents in Europe are giving pharmaceutical corporations the monopoly power that allows them to charge exorbitant prices for many lifesaving drugs,” said Gaëlle Krikorian, Head of Policy at MSF’s Access Campaign. “The excessive prices Gilead is charging for sofosbuvir have kept this breakthrough medicine away from millions of people with hepatitis C – in Europe and around the world. What is the point of medical innovation if people and health systems cannot afford the products coming out of it?”

Editor’s notes:

To know more about the development of sofosbuvir, a true breakthrough drug for hepatitis C, watch this video: When Big Pharma plays for keeps, who wins and who loses?

Interview With Dr. Edmun Rabban, Health Program Coordinator in Dohuk, Iraq

Published 4th December 2018

Dr. Edmun Rabban is a medical doctor who has been working with Doctors of the World Middle East since November 2014. He began as the Team Leader of  Doctors of the World’s first mobile clinic, and later took up the positions of Medical Supervisor in March 2015 and Medical Manager in August 2016. He is currently working as a Health Program Coordinator since November 2017.

What did the picture look like when you first started working with Doctors of the World?

The set-up was completely different back then compared with today, as we were in a context of emergency then. We started off with mobile clinics and worked in tents with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). At that time, most of the IDPs were Yezidis who were fleeing persecution from the Islamic State (ISIS).

Our two main priorities back then were: 1) facing the emergency at hand 2) controlling the health situation. Moreover, the majority of IDPs had not received any aide, including healthcare, for a long time and that made the situation much more complicated. We were also faced with critical cases of malnutrition, which we referred to secondary healthcare facilities – hospitals.

Since the beginning, our main goal was thus to ensure access to healthcare services. Another important part of our work was to coordinate our activities with other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the local Directorate of Health (DoH) – under the Ministry of Health.

What activities did Doctors of the World put in place to respond to the crises at hand?

Doctors of the World basically went where the needs were, that is to say in Al Amedi district, in IDP camps, and in villages where IDPs sought refuge. The Chamesku IDP camp was established in 2014 and Doctors of the World began to provide Primary Health Care (PHC) services within the camp from December 2014 onwards. Chamesku Camp is the largest IDP camp in Northern Iraq, which provides refuge for over 27 000 displaced persons. It is mostly inhabited by the Yezidi community (95%), who have been particularly targeted by ISIS.

Doctors of the World has always prioritized working in close cooperation with the DoH of Dohuk in ensuring access to healthcare for IDPs in Chamesku camp, and continues to do so today. Services provided includes primary healthcare, sexual and reproductive health, and mental health and psychological support.

At the outset, Doctors of the World worked mainly in IDP camps, but afterwards began supporting PHC centers in the governorates of Dohuk and Ninewa. Today, Doctors of the World works to provide healthcare facilities with essential drugs and medical supplies, but also covers their operational costs. Support activities further includes capacity building and on-the-job training of local (DoH) medical staff, with the objective of accompanying the DoH in the recovery of the healthcare system.

Today, the health situation is somewhat under control, as we are no longer in an emergency phase. As such, we are seeking to develop sustainable activities. For example, we recently requested and obtained a card from the DoH which enables beneficiaries to benefit free of charge from treatments if they suffer from a chronic disease.

What are the challenges ahead?

The top current and forthcoming priority is mental health (MH). The large-scale displacement experienced by many has caused significant psychological and social stress on families and communities, affecting their mental and psychological wellbeing. Additionally, many people have been living in camps for years, in precarious conditions, very far away from their homes. This has only increased their vulnerability, making them more likely to develop mental problems. Moreover, the informal community networks that often regulate community wellbeing were disrupted. For many, this has led to the development of social and psychological problems, while exacerbating existing problems, thereby increasing their vulnerability.

MH workers have witnessed severe cases of depression and bedwetting, among others, but they have also been lucky to see remarkable changes. I remember the drawings of the children at the beginning; they were very violent – depicting blood, weapons, fighting and ISIS members. Within one year, the drawings had greatly changed, as the children started to draw suns, gardens and animals. For me, this is proof that there is hope and so we must continue our efforts. It is very important to advocate for MH inclusion within the healthcare system. It is about changing laws and practices in order to ensure sustainable development in mental healthcare.

Nonetheless, the needs remain great. In Iraq, the mental health policy is very weak. Mental health exists on paper but not in healthcare facilities. University curriculums are psychiatry-based and do not focus on psychology. The shortage in human resources is a real problem and does not allow to meet the needs. The Ministry of Health does not have the necessary resources. They are willing to do more, they believe in it, but they do not have the capacity. It will take some time. I strongly believe that we should focus on children, while developing other activities for adults, such as social support activities and counselling.

Another priority should be gender-based violence (GBV). The main focus of the DoH in terms of GBV has been on responding to the needs of ISIS survivors, while forgetting about other types of GBV in camps, such as domestic violence which is recurrent but hidden most of the time. It is therefore important to raise awareness on GBV and incite survivors and communities to be more comfortable talking about the issue. Building capacity is also important. Doctors of the World recently conducted a workshop to explore the current needs and possibilities of capacity building.

Last but not least, SRH is another main priority. To alleviate the workload of doctors, there is need to increase the capacity of SRH nurses and receive recognition from the DoH. A special focus should be put on family planning, which is greatly lacking among IDPs and host communities.

Day Seven #SafeBirths – Durga

Published 2nd December 2018

There should be no barrier or fears at all in accessing antenatal care.

Durga is the Women and Children’s Clinic Coordinator at our London Clinic.  She is a qualified GP and has worked both in the UK and in humanitarian settings, particularly in a refugee camp in Greece.

 

While I have a special interest in women’s health and access to healthcare, I have only become aware of the impact of charging in antenatal care since working at Doctors of the World.

 

Pregnant women face enormous barriers in accessing antenatal care. Firstly, antenatal care is charged as a standard package of care rather than an itemized bill. This makes it more challenging for patients: they will be charged a lump sum regardless of how much antenatal care they actually receive. In addition, more and more now women are receiving bills halfway through their pregnancy or even sometimes before their first appointment. This is very hostile and stops many women from accessing antenatal care. On top of all this, the wording often makes it sound as if these women have to pay a deposit to access antenatal care: none of these women have the means to do so.

 

What we’re trying to do in our clinic is to educate women about charging. In this way, they can be prepared and hopefully reassured. Most women are contacting us soon after receiving their bill. They do not know why they have received this and they don’t have the means to pay it. What the documentation fails to say is that a deposit is suggested but not mandatory, and that they can still receive their antenatal care even if they don’t pay. The only requirement is to pay afterwards. We provide this clarification and encourage women to engage with the Overseas Office as having a good relationship will help establish payment plans: being able to pay in small installments helps incredibly.

 

Worst of all, the ultimate implication of non payment within two months from delivery, is that they may be reported to the Home Office. This is catastrophicAs a result of this, most of the women we see or speak to are afraid of accessing maternity services.

 

Even once they access antenatal care, women continue to face barriers. I have seen many women turned away from their antenatal appointments because there are no interpreters available. Their appointments delayed for weeks and they may not receive scans or appointments at the right time. Maternity care is an important time to provide information as well as assess women medically and socially. Use of interpreters, either face to face, or on the phone, can easily be arranged within the NHS. There should be no language barrier but we still see discrimination.

 

There should be no barrier or fears at all in accessing antenatal care.

Day Six #SafeBirths – Ellen

Published 1st December 2018

“I think about when my friends were having babies and how worried and nervous they were, even though they had their families nearby and could also just pop into the doctor for a bit of information, care or reassurance. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not have all of that on hand.”

 

Ellen Waters is the Director of Development at Doctors of the World.

 

Working with women and mothers or mums to be is a central part of the work that we do at Doctors of the World internationally but also here in the UK.

 

We are the UK part of the international network Médecins du Monde, which is about to start a global project tackling gender-based violence (GBV). GBV has a particularly big impact on women and mothers to be, and we often hear appalling stories about it from the women that we see in our UK and overseas clinics, as well as those we meet in refugee camps. Sometimes, the pregnancies we are discussing can be due to a lack of knowledge about or access to family planning services but too often they are a result of rape.

 

The vulnerability of women and children comes to the forefront whenever there’s a humanitarian emergency or conflict. They often need to be prioritised when planning our work, as we saw last year during the widespread famine in Kenya. Our programme there focused mainly on identifying severe acute malnutrition, which meant that we were looking at and treating children under five years old. Identifying and treating malnutrition in that age group is particularly urgent. If it is left untreated, it can lead to developmental problems and a lasting impact on wellbeing. We were targeting children and pregnant mothers to make sure that early development was protected.

 

Whether it is in Kenya or the UK, the special attention on pregnant mothers and children is borne out of their unique needs. When we set up our London clinic, we did not expect to have a separate women and children’s unit. It was established for anyone struggling to access healthcare. But over time we recognised that there were many women who needed special support, or address gender specific health needs and bringing them into the general clinic wasn’t a suitable solution for a range of sensitivities, or cultural norms,

 

I hear horrific stories from the doctors at the clinic about women who have found themselves pregnant and alone with no family around, and who were too frightened to see a doctor until they heard about our clinic. They were preparing to give birth alone, without knowing if their baby is healthy. A moment in life that can be so joyful for so many people can sometimes be the most terrifying and lonely for others.  I think about when my friends were having babies and how worried and nervous they were, even though they had their families nearby to support them, and they could also just pop into the doctor for a bit of information, care or reassurance. I can’t imagine what it must be like for anyone to not have that.

 

I think even having one expectant mother come into our clinic, in labour thinking that she’s going to give birth to her child there because she has nowhere else to go, and she’s had no advice at all, is completely unacceptable. It’s something that we can easily do something about.

We feel very passionate about this.

 

I can sometimes sit and talk with a stranger about a service user at the clinic who’s got cancer, and the response may be: well, they should go home. The discussion can be protracted or personal and very politicized and polarized.

But a pregnant woman walking into our clinic in labour, clearly can’t wait for the debate about whether she’s entitled to asylum status, whether she deserves healthcare, whether she has correctly assessed the risks about leaving her country. There’s no time to have those complicated discussions about her right to healthcare, and we should get her the antenatal support that her and her baby’s life might depend on.

A difficult story to tell this Christmas

Published 30th November 2018

Mary was pregnant as result of a ‘corrective’ rape, which was to cure her homosexuality.

After the event, she was rejected by her family, sent to the UK, and found herself alone and scared. She had nowhere to turn and for months hid her pregnancy and the reason why she was in London.

Up to her third trimester, she had never seen a doctor.

Mary eventually visited Doctors of the World clinic in Bethnal Green. The team moved quickly, got her registered with a GP and access antenatal care, and provided nappies and baby clothes.

“Doctors of the World is my family now” says Mary.

She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl at the end of July and is delighted everything went well in labour and delivery. Now, Mary often comes around the clinic to show her baby off.

Your donation this Christmas can ensure we help more women like Mary, keeping our clinic and helpline open in 2019.

From a public health perspective, it is awful to see women denied basic healthcare because of a lack of money. 

Doctors of the World works to ensure that women like Mary get an empathetic response, respect, and practical help. Women often leave our clinic smiling when they arrived in tears.

By giving, you will help other women like Mary at a difficult time. They place enormous value in having a routine antenatal check, listening to their baby’s heartbeat, getting pregnancy vitamins and information on pregnancy health. And so do we. 

Please support our Christmas appeal today. For Mary, and for women in vulnerable circumstances.

*Name changed to protect identity

*Picture does not represent Mary

 

Day Five #SafeBirths – Rhiannon

They leave smiling when they have presented in tears

Rhiannon is a GP volunteer at Doctors of the World’s Women and Children clinic. She has been a GP for 20 years in Hackney and extensively with Turkish and Kurdish refugees.

 

I am a GP who lives and works in Hackney and have been a GP for 30 years. During my career I have worked extensively with refugees to provide primary health care needs and exclusively in inner city settings, and three years ago I began volunteering at Doctors of the World’s Women and Children’s clinic.

 

It was a shock to me, even with my experience, to see women presenting late in their pregnancy, having had no antenatal care, fearful, scared and anxious. They also have frequently had traumatic experiences of trafficking, sexual abuse, relationship break ups, and ill treatment in their home countries or in the UK.

 

From a public health perspective, it is awful to see women too scared to access – and sometimes even denied – basic health care because of lack of money. It is also very frustrating to see such a short sighted policy that excludes many vulnerable migrant women from accessing free healthcare. The huge bills that these women are required to pay deters them from getting an intervention designed to maximise the good health of both mother and baby. It also prevents the need for costly interventions as a result of prematurity or neonatal illness.

 

It is great to see women relaxing in our clinic, opening up about their experiences. They are amazed to get an empathetic response, respect and practical help and often leave smiling when they have presented in tears.

 

While what we can achieve is limited, they value enormously having a routine antenatal check, listening to their baby’s heartbeat, getting pregnancy vitamins and information on pregnancy health.

 

In addition, the fantastic case workers work tirelessly to sort anything from emergency accommodation, social work referrals, debt advice, counselling, hospital appointments, food bank vouchers to a much needed meal and cup of tea. All this is in addition to obtaining access to free, ongoing primary health care by sorting out their GP registration.

 

 

Day Four #SafeBirths – Pratheep

Published 29th November 2018

Pratheep is a volunteer GP at our London clinic, where we treat asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, homeless people and other vulnerable patients.

Doctors of the World has a specific women and children’s clinic that is lead by female clinicians. This is an extremely welcoming set up for female patients who may be accessing healthcare in this country for the first time.

As a male GP, I do not participate in the Women and Children’s Clinic but I have still met a number of pregnant women during our clinic ours. The cases that I have seen have either been at the very early stages of pregnancy or post delivery.

 

The first maternity case I had come across in Doctors of the World was a young lady and her partner who had recently discovered that they were expecting. As they had had no prior exposure to the NHS, the way antenatal care works needed to be explained to them.

 

The first pregnancy for any patient can be a daunting experience with so many concerns and queries. The added complexity in their case was the fact that they were not registered with a GP, had no formal documentation and were afraid of the cost of receiving NHS care.

In my normal practice, antenatal care is rather straightforward: I take a history, examine the patient and then they can self-refer themselves onto the midwives who take over their care. It’s all over and done in ten minutes.

When you are unaware of the system and processes, when your command of the English language isn’t good enough for you to fill out the questionnaire. Or you can’t speak fluently to the administrative team you call to make the self referral and when you’re told how much the cost of having a child would be, when you’re either not working or doing jobs that pay far less than minimum wage: Imagine the dread you would be feeling. This is all on top of having your first child.

 

 

 

UK’s human rights regulator calls for “clear separation” between immigration policies and healthcare

Drawing on research coproduced with Doctor of the World and Imperial College London, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) called on the Government to stop sharing NHS patient data with the Home Office and to end the policy of charging refused asylum seekers exorbitantly high costs to access healthcare in England.  The regulator argued that a separation between healthcare and immigration enforcement was needed in order to uphold the UK’s human rights obligations.

 

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“People seeking and refused asylum are likely to have particular health needs because of past distressing experiences and the traumatic effects of fleeing to a different country. It’s therefore crucial that they are able to fully and easily access healthcare and that their rights are protected by keeping healthcare separate from immigration enforcement. This is just about common humanity.”

 

Dr Katherine Taylor, a GP and health advisor for Doctors of the World, said:

“Everybody within society needs to have access to healthcare. It’s not just a matter of human rights and dignity, it’s basic common sense. Pregnant women need to see a midwife, children need vaccinations and people with chronic conditions need a GP. We know that for the NHS it is cheaper and less resource intensive to see patients early on, to provide preventative healthcare and treat chronic diseases before people develop complications.  Policies that prevent people from accessing NHS services just cause more problems in the long term.

The research, which looked at the experiences of people who have been through the asylum system, showed NHS charging regulations and the policy of sharing NHS patients’ data with the Home Office stopped people getting the healthcare they need and undermined trust in health professionals and services.

 

A woman in London who had been refused asylum said: “I still have that fear they might contact immigration and they’ll come get me … It’s not just a fear about going to a surgery – it’s about being traumatised … When I found out I was pregnant, I was really frightened.  I had no money. I decided I would keep my pregnancy secret and get an abortion.”

 

Asylum dispersal policy – the policy of moving asylum seekers outside of London and South East England – was found to interrupt and delay access to healthcare, causing particular problems for pregnant women or people with complex health needs. One individual was relocated shortly after having extensive heart surgery, despite objections from her cardiologist.

 

Many asylum seekers are unable to afford the costs associated with healthcare such as travel and prescriptions. For example, a pregnant asylum seeker who needed frequent hospital check-ups faced travel costs nearing £20, whilst another individual spoke of only being able to afford food or prescription costs: “My husband often didn’t take his medication. Because he didn’t want to swap it for food. I think a lot of his conditions now are in a really bad state.”

Disabled people, people with mental health conditions, and women, including pregnant women, were more severely impacted by these barriers

The EHRC also recommended that:

  • all women have free access to pregnancy and maternity services, and all family planning services
  • asylum seekers right to work is extended or that Home Office financial support is increased.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the regulatory body responsible for promoting, monitoring and enforcing equality and human rights legislation in Great Britain and is recognised by the United Nations as a National Human Rights Institution.