Background: The refugee patient's complex problems represent a challenge for primary and secondary health care. Language problems and cultural differences may cause difficulties in understanding symptoms and ailments. We have assessed how physicians relate to and perceive their competence for treating this patient group.
Material and methods: A questionnaire covering health political and work- related themes is sent to a representative sample of Norwegian physicians every second year. In 2006 11 questions were included on physicians' experience with having refugees and asylum seekers as patients.
Results: The majority reported to have middle-level competence in treating this patient group. 28 % of regular GPs assessed their competence to be low. 29 % of regular GPs reported how they liked to work with these patients as "below middle level" or "low". 70 % of regular GPs and 55 % of psychiatrists said it was difficult or impossible to get advice and guidance from experts. 51 % reported to have bad experience with referring to a psychiatrist or a psychiatric hospital department. Doctors reported to often not know whether their patients had been traumatised.
Interpretation: The regular GP (who often has the main responsibility for treating these patients) experience that the general conditions for treatment and rehabilitation are insufficient and that psychiatric health services do not offer adequate help.