Doctors of the World launches clinic for Grenfell Tower survivors
Published 29th June 2017
Doctors of the World has launched a clinic for Grenfell Tower fire survivors in North Kensington to reach people who urgently need medical care but fear using the NHS.
Our safe and confidential “pop-up” clinic near the tower started on 30 June and is staffed by volunteer GPs and caseworkers. Grenfell Tower was destroyed by a fire earlier this month – at least 80 people are presumed dead so far and scores of residents are still missing.
In recent days, volunteers at the scene have reported that many undocumented migrants and asylum seekers who lived in the tower are not coming to official relief centres or institutions, even if they have serious injuries, because they fear being referred to Home Office immigration teams.
“When we visited the area around Grenfell Tower, volunteers immediately started telling us about families who were too scared to see a doctor even though they were suffering from smoke inhalation, or had been injured while escaping the tower, or were traumatised by the fire,” says Phil Murwill, who runs our Grenfell clinic.
Our team spent this week visiting people at local community centres, legal advice centres, mosques, and churches.
“I was shocked when I learned that people are afraid to come forward in the aftermath of such a big emergency,” says Helen Richardson (pictured above), one of the volunteer GPs who has helped set up our clinic.
“Our clinic will be here for everyone, for as long as we’re needed.”
Grenfell survivors’ fears are sadly not unfounded – following a controversial deal, the Home Office can now routinely access NHS patients’ private records to track down undocumented migrants.
Doctors of the World, which has run clinics in the UK for undocumented migrants and other vulnerable groups since 2006, has stood firmly against the deal since it was made public in January. Our #StopSharing campaign has brought together hundreds of NHS medics to call for this unethical data-sharing to end.
“This fire highlights a particularly shocking example of something that is actually widespread across the UK – vulnerable people are not getting basic healthcare because they are too afraid,” says Paquita de Zulueta, one of our volunteer GPs, who has given her time to several Grenfell relief projects.
“At Doctors of the World’s clinics, we often see sick people who have struggled along for years without seeing a doctor.”
Theresa May stated last week that Grenfell survivors and relatives of those who died would not face immigration checks while accessing services, but this is not allaying the fears of many people on the ground.
May has not made it clear how these exemptions will work in practice or how long they will last. She has backed government moves to create a “hostile environment” for undocumented migrants for several years.
Doctors of the World has written to Health Minister Jeremy Hunt and local NHS hospitals to urge them to publicly state that survivors will not have their details shared with the Home Office, undergo ID checks, or receive hospital bills.
“This is the reality of life in the UK for many people,” says Phil Murwill. “This is how the government’s ‘hostile environment’ is affecting real lives.”
Do you want the Home Office to stop making doctors into border guards and making patients scared to get healthcare? Please sign our #StopSharing petition