Refugees are entitled to free NHS care. Many will be used to a high standard of care from their country of origin although they may have had little access to healthcare provision for months or even years.

  • Health care systems in the countries from which refugees have fled had very good standards prior to the conflict so individuals may have high expectations of health care in England.
  • People may have had little or no access to health care for some time prior to their arrival in the UK.
  • The NHS is very different from the health service in countries of origin from which refugees have fled. Many individuals will be unfamiliar with a GP, Health visitor, Midwife etc.
  • Ensure information about how the NHS and primary care works is provided in appropriate languages where resources permit.
  • Be mindful that appointments with an interpreter will take longer so support workers need to weigh up the language and wider health care needs
  • Be flexible. Individuals will not understand that you normally will only have one appointment for one health problem.


This resource pack provides information for GPs and other health professionals. It covers issues such as language, culture, common health issues, providing case scenarios and links to useful resources. Resource pack to help GP's and other primary healthcare professionals in their work with refugees and asylum seekers. Guy's and St Thomas NHS, 2012.

This guide supports commissioners of health services to understand and incorporate the health needs of the local migrant population and vulnerable women. It contains information on migrants’ entitlement to NHS treatment and the health infrastructure which may be required to address migrant women’s health needs alongside examples of good practice. Guidance for commissioning health services for vulnerable migrant womenMaternity Action and Women's Health and Equality Forum, 2012. 

Summary of principles for New Patient Registration in Primary Care. Wolverhampton CCG, 2015.

Health of migrants and access to healthcare in the UK. Race Equality Foundation, 2010.

Experiencing maternity care: the care received and perceptions of women from different ethnic groups. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 2013. 

Asylum seeking women, Violence and Health: Results from a pilot study in Belgium and Scotland. Scottish Refugee Council and others, 2009.

A civilised society, Mental Health provision for refugees and asylum seekers in England and Wales. Mind, 2009.

Understanding how asylum seekers and refugees access and experience mental health support in LeedsPafras/Touchstone and NHS, 2012.


Jane Howie