Healthcare for domestic workers
Published 1st May 2019
Everyone in the UK is entitled to register with and see a GP. However, many migrants are unable to access the healthcare they are entitled to as they are wrongly turned away from GP practices.
Doctors of the World UK’s volunteers help people access their right to care. On International Workers Day, we want to share the stories of the domestic workers we meet at our clinic. Some of them are undocumented as they were trafficked to the country, others have fled from abusive employers, once in the UK.
Joanna was one of these women. She is a member of The Voice of Domestic Workers, an education and support group for migrant workers that we work closely with. Yasmin recounted her experience at a workshop on healthcare and storytelling we ran in collaboration with Migrant Voice.
“I arrived here in the UK in 2013 and started working as a housekeeper/nanny. In 2017, I felt pain on my neck so I searched online for a private clinic because I am scared of my legal status here. I went to a walk-in centre and they charged me £200 to see a doctor, who just gave me some antibiotics.
Then a “friend” of mine asked me if I wanted to be registered with a GP and she said I have to pay her £300 but I never saw her again! My last resort was to get a private GP, which we all know costs a lot of money.”
Joanna’s situation is a common one for domestic workers in the UK. Many are asked for documents they simply don’t have, and they are too scared to access a GP, afraid that the information they provide will be used to deport them.
Joanna, however, managed to access support.
“Thankfully I met a friend who is a member of The Voice of Domestic Workers and they helped me a lot to find a GP, through the help of Doctors of the World. Now I have full access to the GP and they are treating me.”
Many people like Joanna are wrongly turned away from GP practices. Some of them, however, aren’t able to get help in time.
Mona was in a lot of pain when she went to see her local GP, but they refused to register her. She was too afraid to visit A&E and she lost her baby, which she did not know she was carrying.
In 2018, 98% of the patients we saw at out London Clinic were not registered with a GP despite being fully entitled. On average, they had lived in the UK for six years. This is despite the fact that GP practices are not required to ask for proof of identification or address from patients wishing to register.
Moreover, domestic workers may find themselves in the hands of abusive employers with little opportunities to leave and regularize their status. In many cases, domestic workers have little free time or are allowed little time off. Their free time is not always when GPs practices are open, providing a further barrier to finding and registering with a GP. For them, we run a mobile clinic that visits the project monthly and ensure that they are not overlooked in their healthcare needs.
Joanna is determined that everyone has access to healthcare. She said:
“I think there should be equality: whether the person is documented or undocumented, she should be treated the same. If healthcare staff had proper training about people’s status, the inequality issue would be eliminated.
We are human, we all have rights!”
Note: the women in these pictures are not Joanna and Mona.