Migrant Health

Elizabeth Such, University of Sheffield
Rachel Steen, fairhealth


People migrating to the UK are generally fit and healthy. Yet some arrive in difficult circumstances and may find the UK health system hard to navigate. There is a risk that some new arrivals ‘fall through the healthcare gaps’ because they don’t know where to go when they are ill. This is made harder still if they are turned away from primary care when they try to register at a GP surgery.

Many new arrivals to the UK speak little or no English so use of an interpreter is often essential to provide the best care. If the appropriate interpreter is not available this acts as a further barrier to accessing services.

Possible health problems of vulnerable migrants arriving in the UK

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What can I do?

  1. Check out and use this new patient checklist.

  2. Briefly educate yourself and the teams you work in about Department of Health and Social Care guidance on working with new arrivals. Importantly, everyone – regardless of where they come from – is entitled to free primary care.

  3. Review existing policies or practices that might, unwittingly, reduce access to care. The most common barriers are policies and practices that insist on proof of address/documentation to register. This is not required.

  4. Recognise that some people may be in quite vulnerable circumstances and these will impact on their health. For example, asylum seekers may have harrowing histories, fear ‘authority’ and be subject to hostile conditions in the UK.

  5. Consult important sources of information on migrant health so that you can advocate for all your patients and pioneer better patient care.

More resources


Elizabeth Such is a NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield and a co-creator of the tool migrant.health