Background: There has been much debate regarding the refugee health situation in the UK. However most of the existing literature fails to take account of the opinions of refugees themselves. This study was established to determine the views of asylum seekers and refugees on their overall experiences in primary care and to suggest improvements to their care.
Methods: Qualitative study of adult asylum seekers and refugees who had entered the UK in the last 10 years. The study was set in Barnet Refugee Walk in Service, London. 11 Semi structured interviews were conducted and analysed using framework analysis.
Results: Access to GPs may be more difficult for failed asylum seekers and those without support from refugee agencies or family. There may be concerns amongst some in the refugee community regarding the access to and confidentiality of professional interpreters. Most participants stated their preference for GPs who offered advice rather than prescriptions. The stigma associated with refugee status in the UK may have led to some refugees altering their help seeking behaviour.
Conclusion: The problem of poor access for those with inadequate support may be improved by better education and support for GPs in how to provide for refugees. Primary Care Trusts could also supply information to newly arrived refugees on how to access services. GPs should be aware that, in some situations, professional interpreters may not always be desired and that instead, it may be advisable to reach a consensus as to who should be used as an interpreter. A better doctor-patient experience resulting from improvements in access and communication may help to reduce the stigma associated with refugee status and lead to more appropriate help seeking behaviour. Given the small nature of our investigation, larger studies need to be conducted to confirm and to quantify these results.