Primary care

Guidance on helping asylum seekers and refugees in primary care

  • There is no regulatory requirement for an asylum seeker or a  refugee to prove their identity, address, immigration status or the provision of an NHS number in order to register with a general practitioner (GP) (NHS England, 2015)
  • Permanent rather than temporary registration with a GP is preferable, as it will facilitate a health check, screening, health promotion, immunisation, continuity of care and access to previous records, if in existence
  • Practices with large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers may have the possibility of applying for extra funding. (Contact your local clinical commissioning group.)
  • The receptionists at GP surgeries should be trained on how to book trained/professional interpreters
  • It is important to book a double appointment to allow more time

Guidance when prescribing medication to asylum seekers and refugees

  • Many asylum seekers and refugees have come from countries where they have been able to self-prescribe medication including herbal medicine. They may not understand the risk of under- or over-dosing or the dangers of mixing different medication, or of not completing the course of medication. It is very crucial that care is taken in giving instructions relating to dose, course and avoidance of herbal over-the-counter medications
  • When working with an interpreter, take the opportunity to ask them to write the dose and course instructions in the asylum seeker or refugee’s own language
  • Prescribing may also need to take into account an asylum seeker or refugee’s cultural or religious practices. This is particularly the case for Muslim asylum seekers or refugees. See the handbook on Privacy, Dignity & Respect for Cultural & Religious Beliefs and the Ramadan health guide
  • Cost will be a significant barrier to many refugees, so it is important to be aware of the cost of medications, and wherever possible to assist the asylum seeker or refugee in completing the claim form to get help with health costs

Who is responsible for assisting an asylum seeker or refugee to register with a GP?    

  • The accommodation provider must provide information and assist new asylum seekers and refugee families dispersed in any area to register with a GP
  • The local authority or the Clinical Commissioning Groups may offer information
  • The Clinical Commissioning Group in Liverpool commissioned the Social Inclusion Team to facilitate access to Primary Care (GP) for asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers, travellers and the deaf community as well as to advocate for patients
  • In some areas, local charities may offer some practical support and advice
  • The Home Office should provide information to local primary care when dispersing families so health visitors can offer support to families who have young children

Find the nearest services using a post code via NHS Choices website.

Further reading