Recognising Refugee Week

This week marks the 25th anniversary of Refugee Week, bringing with it the theme of compassion and some thoughts on exactly what it looks like in action. So much of the work that we do to support local refugees and asylum seekers demonstrates compassion and is borne out of one of our organisation’s core values, We Care.

As the only GP federation in the South East to have established a dedicated Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support Service, we are proud of the advances we have made in providing both clinical, emotional and practical support for those placed in our region.

We have created a programme of support that is led by the needs of the individuals we meet and influenced by the compassionate professionals who assist them.

Our clinical team work with our primary care colleagues, local hotels and local authorities to ensure new arrivals can not only access emergency medical support but register for ongoing care too. Establishing pathways for people living in the hotels is ongoing and has focused predominantly on mental health, maternity and sexual health. Among the recent initiatives have been:
• Emergency support of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK and placed in East Surrey and Sussex across 20 hotels
• Dedicated clinician at Gatwick Airport to offer consultations for any immediate health concerns for arriving Ukrainian refugees
• Emergency medical response to Gatwick Airport arrivals from Sudan – two-hour response time from request to delivery
• Medical supervision and screening
• Pathway development with system partners, including sexual health, maternity and mental health
• Refugee health checks and hotel-based assessments

Of course, the needs of temporarily housed refugees and asylum seekers often involves far more than clinical assistance. Many arrive with no belongings, no knowledge of their surroundings and are reacting to unimaginable trauma. Therefore, in addition to our medical response, we work with over 25 voluntary sector organisations to deliver activities that will support integration, social inclusion and cultural awareness – all of which can reduce or prevent mental health issues. These can range from a tuck shop supplied by Love Your Neighbour, walks led by Mole Valley Ramblers and Drumming Workshops facilitated by Surrey Arts to football training and baby groups.

We’re especially proud to support Stripey Stork, Sussex Aid for Refugees and Refugees Welcome Crawley as they continue to welcome and support refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants who need help to cope with life in a new country.

As the need for support has grown, so too has our team. Most recently we’ve launched a personalised care project that feeds into both the Population Health Board and Personalised Care and Sussex Primary Care Board. It employees two Social Prescribers and a Care Coordinator and explores the impact of their roles on the well-being of refugees and asylum seekers in our local hotels. It aligns with the Long Term Plan NHS Priorities 22023/24 delivers on the Core20PLUS5 approach.

We’re excited to see what difference this new project can make and are proud to spend Refugee Week recognising the compassion that surrounds this work. In the words of author Dina Nayeri – “It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.”