Human Trafficking is becoming increasingly recognised as a global public health epidemic with an estimated 45.8 million individuals affected by some type of exploitation. The effects of trauma and exploitation have profound health implications and often leave victims isolated from society. Victims of Human Trafficking are commonly associated with vulnerability, comorbidities, poor access to, and engagement with, healthcare services. Given this situation, an exploration of trafficking and access to healthcare was indicated. A focus group explored the experiences of six third sector workers in supporting victims of Human Trafficking. Thematic analysis was used and four overarching themes emanated: a call for improved access to treatment for victims affected by mental illness; improved knowledge and training of health professionals in identifying victims; the challenges for victims navigating two complex systems (National Referral Mechanism/Asylum Process) and victim’s self-identification. The findings highlighted the associated complexities that victims commonly face when accessing healthcare and emphasised the fundamental need for ensuring that equitable services are available. To enable safeguarding and individualised care to become embedded, a shift in culture and a move away from judging healthcare need on immigration status was recognised as a key requirement. Improved access to psychological therapy for victims was also suggested, alongside better education for all health professionals and frontline staff. To improve healthcare for victims of Human Trafficking in the ways recommended would require Government and National Health Service (NHS) support including increased financial and staff resources.
Emily Brace,Julia Sanders and Hanna Oommen