Press release

Help for NHS staff to spot and support trafficking victims

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

More victims of human trafficking will be identified thanks to new training and advice launched today by Public Health Minister Anna Soubry.

Help for NHS staff to spot and support trafficking victims

More victims of human trafficking will be identified thanks to new training and advice launched today by Public Health Minister Anna Soubry.

The new tools are designed to make it easier for NHS staff to spot and give help to people who have been illegally trafficked and are available to healthcare workers across the country.

Last year, 1,186 potential victims of trafficking were identified through the UK’s victim support framework the National Referral Mechanism. This is an increase of 25 per cent compared to 2011 – but due to difficulties in recognising victims it is likely many more could be saved.

Victims of human trafficking can be men, women or children, who are often brought from abroad against their will. Most are then forced to work or are sexually exploited. Foreign nationals make up the majority of those who are trafficked but UK residents can also be trafficked around the country and abroad.

As a result of these tools, doctors, nurses and other health workers will be better equipped to spot the signs of trafficking and will know what to do if they think a patient might be a victim. Telltale signs could include someone who is afraid to speak to a doctor or nurse, or reluctant to explain how an injury occurred. A victim may also be vague when explaining where they live, work or go to school or be with someone who insists on speaking for them.

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said:

Human trafficking is abhorrent, and a form of slavery which causes misery and suffering to the thousands of victims and their families. Surgeries and hospitals are sometimes the only place where victims come into contact with people who care and are concerned for their welfare so it is vital that we make the most of these opportunities.

I encourage all NHS staff to complete this training so they can save someone who is suffering from an unimaginably awful life.

In many cases, victims need treatment for health problems so NHS staff are uniquely placed to spot, treat and support victims of trafficking. If staff have concerns about a possible victim, and need more advice, they can contact the Salvation Army who offer a wide range of support, which includes securing accommodation, counselling and assistance with asylum applications or voluntary repatriation.

Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive, Platform 51 said:

Platform 51 is delighted to be part of producing this vital tool for health professionals. Health professionals play a vital role in the fight against the trafficking of men, women and children. As a charity working with vulnerable women, we know how vital it is that victims of human trafficking get appropriate support.

We believe this toolkit will go a long way to enabling health professionals to offer victims of human trafficking the support that they need.

Jill Demilew, Consultant Midwife at King’s College Hospital and Chair of the steering group said:

As a consultant midwife, I am delighted to have been part of a team to develop this vital toolkit for health professionals. I believe it offers my colleagues and peers working across the health service, the key information they need to identify victims of human trafficking.

It has been a pleasure to Chair this project and to work with the Department of health, Platform 51 and our Steering Group of health professionals to deliver this vital resource.

Background information

  1. If you think that someone is in immediate danger call 999. The Metropolitan Police with Stop the Traffik have a 24 hours hotline for victims to call or to report suspected trafficking, which is 0800 783 2589.

  2. Platform 51 was asked by the Department of Health to look into ways of educating and enabling healthcare professionals to better respond to patients who they suspect of being victims of human trafficking. A steering group was set up which was chaired by Jill Demilew, Consultant Midwife at King’s College Hospital.

  3. The government’s work to tackle trafficking is outlined in the human trafficking strategy, which focuses on four key areas:
    • improved victim care arrangements;
    • enhanced ability to act early, before the harm has reached the UK;
    • smarter multi-agency action at the border; and
    • better coordination of our law enforcement efforts within the UK.
  4. In 2012, 1,186 people were referred to the National Referral Mechanism as potential victims of human trafficking.
    • 66 per cent of these were women
    • 35 per cent were men
    • 69 per cent of these cases were adults
    • 31 per cent were children.
    • they came from 31 different countries
    • the full statistics are available here.
  5. Platform 51 was founded over 160 years ago as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Platform 51 is a leading women’s charity that helps women and girls facing difficult life challenges, regain their sense of self-worth. Support programmes focusing on issues such as mental health, domestic violence, crime and justice, poverty, childcare and education help women and girls regain their self-esteem and confidence. The charity delivers its activities through women-only centres across England and Wales – Knowsley, London West, Cardiff, West Kent, Doncaster, Wolverhampton, Bristol – and also via outreach in schools, community centres, youth clubs, prisons and mother and baby units. At a national level, Platform 51 ensures the girls and women it works with have a voice by giving them a platform to have their say on women’s issues. Equally, it champions their concerns through policy and stakeholder engagement.

  6. Support for adult victims of human trafficking is available in England and Wales through the Salvation Army which holds the government victim care contract. The Salvation Army has a 24-hour confidential helpline (0300 303 8151) for professional advice and support and referrals which operates seven days a week. The contacts for Northern Ireland and Scotland are: Migrant Help on 07766 668781 and Scotland: TARA on 0141 276 7724. For potential child victims of trafficking please call your Local Authority Children’s Services or the NPSCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre on 0808 800 5000.

  7. The guidance is available on the UK Government website.

  8. For media queries contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5222/5239.