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The City of Sanctuary Health stream provides a forum for asylum seekers and refugees to have a voice, to share their experiences and for these to be used to influence health research, policy and practice. We want to ensure that the Department of Health’s slogan ” No decision about me, without me” includes sanctuary seekers. We recognise that there are many health issues for asylum seekers and refugees that health practitioner need to be aware of to ensure best practice, access to the right health care and that this vulnerable group is not inadvertently discriminated against, particularly in the light of the recent Immigration Bills and health charges.

Since 2013, the Health stream has been active particularly in Yorkshire and the Humber but word about the health stream is spreading and we have supported asylum seekers and refugees to present with Rose McCarthy and Mel Cooper as speakers and workshop leads in several health conferences  including a Sanctuary Seekers and Health Care conference at Bradford University, a meeting the Health Needs of All conference in Leeds,  Queens Nursing Institute conference on Health Care for refugees and asylum seekers looking at the role of the community nurse and a Public Health conference for 8000 delegates in Birmingham.  We are looking forward to four Health stream representatives speaking at the Migrant Health Conference in East Anglia University on the 25th May – Working with refugees, asylum seekers and other forced migrants; recognising vulnerabilities and building resilience.

We have successfully collaborated with the Royal College of Midwives through the maternity stream and provided our expertise for an  e-learning resource for midwives and this has resulted in more midwives coming forward wanting to work with asylum seekers and set up maternity streams in their city to ensure best practice for this particularly vulnerable group.  For example, 12% of maternal deaths in the UK are to asylum seekers and refugees, even though they only make up 0.23% of the population

We are now planning to adapt this e-learning module for other health professionals in partnership with  Doctors of the World (DOTW) .  They have good  links with many medical colleges and are very interested in the idea of health awards. Doctors of the World lead lots of training resulting in people wanting to know what they can do and DOTW recognise that the award can be a great tool for action and engagement. We expect that through this we can get more health and maternity groups set up across the UK.

We have been contacted by a CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) in Manchester who are keen for their local practices to become “Surgeries of Sanctuary”. This suggestion has come directly from them and we hope to be able to help them progress this.  Other CCGs are recognising the value of engaging City of Sanctuary in their needs assessment and consultations.

If you would like support to set up a health or maternity stream group in your city, please contact the National Health and Maternity Stream Coordinator, Rose McCarthy –  [email protected]. It can be a great way for sanctuary seekers, researchers, providers, commissioners and the third sector to work in partnership to improve health access and outcomes for all.

Please also share your CoS health related stories with Rose.


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