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Recent research has highlighted that many victims of human trafficking come into contact with NHS services during the time they are trafficked, or after their escape. In response to this, the Department of Health has launched an updated tool to help NHS staff identify and care for trafficked people and refer them for further support.
The Provider Responses, Treatment and Care for Trafficked People (PROTECT) independent research recently published findings in the BMJ Open showing that up to one in eight NHS professionals reported having contact with a patient they suspected may have been trafficked. The research highlights how important it is that the health system has an understanding of modern slavery and the need for training tools to support health professionals in identifying and providing support for victims. Findings published in the Lancet Psychiatry show that secondary mental health services are caring for trafficked people with a range of diagnoses including: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia.
The Department of Health’s e-learning tool for health service staff on identifying and responding to Modern Slavery sets out situations in which health staff may encounter victims of trafficking, explains the legal situation regarding potential victims’ rights to medical care, and explores ways in which health staff can provide support.
NHS staff who suspect that a patient may have been trafficked can contact the 24-hour confidential helpline, run by the Salvation Army, for professional advice and support on 0300 303 8151. Staff should follow child protection guidelines when child trafficking is suspected, and speak to their designated lead for child protection: out of hours staff should contact their local Children’s Social Services or Police, specifically highlighting their concerns about child trafficking.
Dr Hilary Garratt, Director of Nursing, from NHS England said: “Frontline practitioners across the NHS have a critical role in identifying, supporting and caring for these vulnerable individuals and this is at the heart of our safeguarding leadership role.”