Simple steps to make your surgery more welcoming to refugees

Published 28th March 2022

In this blog, our Policy and Advocacy Manager Dr Yusuf Ciftci writes on the simple steps and resources that GP surgeries across the country can utilise to welcome newcomers in our communities.   

What are the entitlements for refugees? Are they different from other migrants?

Entitlement to register for and receive primary care is same for everyone in England, Scotland and Wales regardless of nationality or immigration status. Anybody can register and consult with a GP without charge and this includes all asylum seekers and refugees, overseas visitors, students, people on work visas and those who are homeless, whether lawfully in the UK or not. It is important to let new migrants and refugees in the UK know their entitlements and how the NHS works; you can download and share these new translated leaflets which are also available in Ukrainian and Russian.

Why is important for everyone to be registered with a GP and have an NHS number?

A GP is often the first point of contact for many physical and mental health concerns and plays a key role in safeguarding people of all ages. The GP can offer medical advice, provide a diagnosis, prescribe medicines, manage long term healthcare needs and refer to specialised hospital services if needed. It is vital for everyone to be able to register with a GP practice to meet their ongoing health needs.

What steps could I take to make my surgery more welcoming to migrants?

Any GP practice can take simple steps to provide a warm welcome to migrants and refugees. Some important improvements include:

  • Reviewing your registration policy and information on your website to make sure no one is refused GP registration regardless of whether they are able to show proof of ID or address or a passport.
  • Using interpreters when needed, including when registering new migrants.
  • Using translated posters in reception area
  • Upskilling your reception and frontline staff with vital information on migrants’ entitlement to healthcare by using our resources and training

GP practices can sign up for our Safe Surgeries Initiative to get further help, resources and training to tackle the barriers to healthcare faced by people in vulnerable circumstances, especially migrants and refugees. Through its membership network of over 700 GP practices (and counting), it aims to spread and celebrate good practice in making primary healthcare inclusive and welcoming.

Once GPs have registered these migrants as new patients, how do we know which support they are entitled to in terms of accessing prescriptions/support for costs or who do we direct them to in order to advise about this?

Many new refugees and migrants may not know that prescription medicines, dental and eye care are not usually free in England. Anyone who is on low income regardless of immigration status is eligible for the NHS Low Income Scheme and may be eligible to receive financial help with the costs of prescriptions, dental and eye care, and travel expenses for hospital appointments. The NHS Business Services Authority website offers more information on the scheme, including information on help with health costs in several languages.

GP practices can refer new migrants to associated social prescribing link workers to provide a holistic care. We have created a toolkit for link workers, care navigators and frontline workers to support this.

Which organisations in the areas of the surgery could be important to talk to reach more prospective patients?

Reach out to local authorities, community organisations, charities, food banks and worship centres. A good starting point would be The University of East London’s online national directory of services and organisations supporting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

Where can I find specific health needs for new refugees?

Check out or sign up for updates on migrant health on the government website. Some advice and guidance is available from the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities’ on health needs of migrants from Ukraine and Afghanistan

Listen to Yusuf and Janet one of the National Health Advisors speaking with The General Practice Podcast.

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