Identifying the problems in relation to meeting the healthcare needs of refugee survivors of torture in the UK

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Identifying the problems in relation to meeting the healthcare needs of refugee survivors of torture in the UK

Background: The New York Times (9 July 1996.) in an article entitled, “A Promising Medical Speciality Emerges to Help Torture Victims”, referred to the growth of Rehabilitation and Research Centres for Torture Victims from 1982 onwards, as a symbol of both the best and worst in humanity, the article went on to suggest that the need for such treatment centres was likely to grow because the use of torture appeared to be epidemic.

Aim: To highlight the main problems that have emerged in relation to the medical treatment of torture victims in the UK, and to identify the necessary measures which have been suggested to face those problems.

Method: I performed database searches of various medical databases. Literature from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine Library, Liverpool Medical Institution and FADE Library were also used to produce this report. I conducted hand searches of Student BMJ, BMJ and The Lancet. Further information was gathered from government publications and organisations that investigate torture and the treatment of torture victims. As well as obtaining information from attendance and discussions with staff and volunteers at asylum centres in Merseyside. I was able to conduct Informal, non-intrusive talks with an anonymous torture victim presently applying for asylum in the UK.

Results: The literature review highlighted common problems experienced by internal healthcare and relevant interested parties and organisations in this area. Many of these identified problems were also highlighted in the practical experiences outlined in the two case studies, and further confirmed in attendances and discussions with staff and volunteers at relevant centres in the Liverpool area.

Conclusion: Understanding, treating and responding to a torture victims is a highly complex area. To date there is no consensus on the prevalence of torture victims within asylum seekers. There appears to be no universally accepted definition of what constitutes torture. There is a lack of research in relation to the most effective evidence based torture treatments. It is clear that refugees and asylum seekers still struggle to gain access to healthcare. Many health professionals may not be clear on guidelines regarding refugee survivors of torture, documentation of alleged cases of torture and fail to consider language and cultural barriers in their approaches.

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