Background: An estimated 10,000 Burmese migrants are currently living in London. No studies have been conducted on their access to health services. Furthermore, most studies on migrants in the United Kingdom (UK) have been conducted at the point of service provision, carrying the risk of selection bias. Our cross-sectional study explored access to and utilisation of General Practice (GP) services by Burmese migrants residing in London.
Methods: We used a mixed-method approach: a quantitative survey using self-administered questionnaires was complemented by qualitative in-depth interviews for developing the questionnaire and triangulating the findings of the survey. Overall, 137 questionnaires were received (a response rate of 57%) and 11 in-depth interviews conducted. The main outcome variables of the study included GP registration, barriers towards registration, GP consultations, barriers towards consultations, and knowledge on entitlements to health care. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, association tests, and a multivariate analysis using logistic regression. The qualitative information was analysed using content analysis.
Results: The respondents were young, of roughly equal gender (51.5% female), well educated, and had a fair level of knowledge on health services in the UK. Although the GP registration rate was relatively high (80%, 109 out of 136), GP service utilisation during the last episode of illness, at 56.8% (54 out of 95), was low. The statistical analysis showed that age being younger than 35 years, lacking prior overseas experience, having an unstable immigration status, having a shorter duration of stay, and resorting to self-medication were the main barriers hindering Burmese migrants from accessing primary health care services. These findings were corroborated by the in-depth interviews.
Conclusions: Our study found that having formal access to primary health care was not sufficient to ensure GP registration and health care utilisation. Some respondents faced difficulties in registering with GP practices. Many of those who have registered prefer to forego GP services in favour of self-medication, partly due to long waiting times and language barriers. To ensure that migrants enjoy the health services they need and to which they are entitled, more proactive steps are required, including those that make health services culturally responsive.