Monday, 30 August 2010

UK asylum detainees denied healthcare

May_30_Health_Care_Rally_NP (667)Image by seiuhealthcare775nw via FlickrSource: Liberal Conspiracy

By ‘Alien from zog’
I don’t know if any of you have ever received the following chain email, I got sent it a few months back:

If you cross the North Korean border illegally you get 12 years hard labour.
If you cross the Iranian border illegally you are detained indefinitely
If you cross the Afghan border illegally you get shot
If you cross the Saudi Arabian border illegally you will be jailed
If you cross the Chinese border illegally you may never be heard from again
If you cross the Venezuelan border illegally you will be branded a spy and your fate will be sealed
If you cross the Cuban border illegally you will be thrown into prison to rot.

If you cross the UK border illegally
A Job
A Driver’s licence
A Free roof over your head
Free education
Free healthcare
Of course the truth is subtly different.

Currently around 3000 people are being held in Britain’s 11 detention centres. Not only are we locking people up but we also deny them even basic healthcare.

Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP wrote about the state of healthcare within the detention centres in last week’s British Medical Journal (not freely available unfortunately), but here are some important points.
  • Patients with chest pain are ignored by medical staff
  • An outbreak of Tuberculosis was ignored for three week
  • Constant failings to address ‘residents’ mental health needs
Even Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons has concerns: “Clinical governance was weak, inpatient care was poor, with little focused care from staff. Primary mental healthcare was inadequate and there was limited access to secondary mental healthcare.”

The problems appear to be institutional. Healthcare is often provided by private companies and, unlike prison doctors, there is no specialist training requirements. This is despite the fact that many asylum seekers have very complex needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder, the physical and psychiatric consequences of torture, HIV, TB, female genital mutilation and many more.

The attitudes to patients appear to be very negative; handcuffs are not normally removed for consultation, poor record keeping is common, confidentiality appears to be optional and there is often an assumption that the patients is lying about previous medical problems leading to withholding of vital medication.

I have no way of knowing if the claims in this article are accurate, but this was published in one of the UK’s most influential medical journals. The people we are talking about are not criminals, they are seeking refuge.

Even if all of them are making false claims (something for which there is no evidence) this inhumane treatment is unacceptable but how much of a stain on the conscious of our nation should it be that people fleeing torture and fearing for their lives, come to the UK and are treated like this?

alienfromzog is a surgical registrar and occasional contributor to AngryMob
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