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Responding to the health needs of trafficked people: A qualitative study of professionals in England and Scotland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Victoria Williamson, Rohan Borschmann, Cathy Zimmerman, Louise Michele Howard, Nicky Stanley, Sian Oram

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth & social care in the community
Accepted/In press12 Aug 2019

King's Authors


Trafficked people require timely and ongoing access to health services. Yet, many encounter difficulties accessing and utilising healthcare services both while in situations of exploitation and after their escape. This research investigated barriers that hinder healthcare providers from identifying, providing care and making necessary referrals for trafficked people in the United Kingdom. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted with healthcare (n=23) and non-health (n=27) professionals with relevant policy or practical experience related to human trafficking in the UK. Topic guides covered identifying, referring, and providing care to trafficked people. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Four interconnected themes emerged: trafficked persons’ entitlements to healthcare, availability of healthcare resources, providers’ knowledge about trafficking, and the particular needs of trafficked individuals. Providers explained that policies limiting entitlements to healthcare created significant obstacles to care, as did the inadequate resourcing of interpreter services, trafficking support services, and specialist mental health services. Few healthcare professionals reported having received training on responses to trafficked people and most were unaware of support options and referral routes. Healthcare professionals will be better equipped to serve trafficked individuals if they are provided training to identify and respond to human trafficking, guidance on referral and support options and entitlements to care. Simultaneously, improving trafficked people’s healthcare access and use will also require government interventions to ensure they are not unjustifiably denied health care.

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