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Day Five #SafeBirths – Rhiannon

Published 30th November 2018

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.