Guidance

Saudi Arabia: migrant health guide

Advice and guidance on the health needs of migrant patients from Saudi Arabia for healthcare practitioners.

Main messages

If the patient is new to the UK:

  • explain to them how the NHS works
  • discuss how this compares to the healthcare system they’ve been used to

Ensure all patients are up-to-date with the UK immunisation schedule.

Consider screening for hepatitis B, particularly among those who have recently arrived, because Saudi Arabia has an intermediate prevalence.

Ask opportunistically about any travel plans the patient may have to visit friends and relatives in their country of origin, and see National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), or the Health Protection Scotland websites (TRAVAX and fitfortravel), for travel advice.

Be advised that there is a risk of malaria in some areas of Saudi Arabia.

Be advised that there is a risk of typhoid infection in Saudi Arabia.

Infectious diseases

Immunisation

Ensure that all patients, especially children, are up-to-date with the UK immunisation schedule.

Tuberculosis (TB)

There is a low incidence of TB in Saudi Arabia (<40 cases per 100,000), so:

  • routine screening is not required
  • consider testing in patients (including children) who show signs and symptoms
  • be aware that TB is a notifiable disease

Sexually transmitted infections and HIV

Take a sexual history, and:

  • screen for STIs and HIV according to risk as specified in the UK national standards and guidelines
  • test all sexually active patients under the age of 25 for chlamydia

Saudi Arabia has a low rate of HIV (≤1%), so:

  • offer and recommend an HIV test if the patient:
    • falls into a high risk group
    • is newly registering in a high prevalence area
  • be advised that national guidelines do not recommend routine consideration of HIV testing of infants and children who have recently arrived in the UK

Hepatitis B

Saudi Arabia has an intermediate prevalence of hepatitis B, so:

  • consider screening for hepatitis B, particularly those who have recently arrived
  • offer screening for hepatitis B to all pregnant women during each pregnancy
  • immunise appropriately babies born to mothers who are hepatitis B positive and follow-up accordingly
  • be aware that the UK has a selective immunisation programme for hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Saudi Arabia has a higher prevalence of hepatitis C than the UK, so consider screening for hepatitis C.

Travel plans and advice

Ask opportunistically about any travel plans the patient may have to visit friends and relatives in their country of origin, and see National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), or the Health Protection Scotland websites (TRAVAX and fitfortravel), for travel advice.

Malaria

There is a risk of malaria in some areas of Saudi Arabia, mainly due to P. falciparum and P. vivax., so:

Typhoid

There is a risk of typhoid infection in Saudi Arabia, so:

  • ensure that travellers to Saudi Arabia are offered typhoid immunisation and advice on prevention of enteric fever
  • remember enteric fever in the differential diagnosis of illness in patients with a recent history of travel to-or-from Saudi Arabia

Women’s health

Reproductive health indicators

Reproductive health indicator UK Saudi Arabia
Children per woman¹ 2 4

¹lifetime average

No data are available on:

  • contraceptive use
  • mammography screening rates
  • cervical cancer screening rates

Nutritional and metabolic concerns

Anaemia

There is a high risk of anaemia in adults (estimated prevalence in non-pregnant women is >40%), and a moderate risk in pre-school children (estimated prevalence is 20 to 40%), in Saudi Arabia, so:

  • be alert to the possibility of anaemia in recently arrived migrants, particularly women and pre-school children
  • test as clinically indicated

Vitamin D

Consider the possibility of vitamin D deficiency in people who may be at risk due to:

  • covering their body for cultural or religious reasons (lack of sunlight)
  • skin colour
  • diet (vegan or vegetarian)

Vitamin A

There is a risk of vitamin A deficiency in Saudi Arabia.

Country profile

Health indicators and health care

WHO Global Health Observatory has a summary of health indicators and healthcare in Saudi Arabia.

Culture, politics and history

BBC News and The World Factbook provide background information on the culture, politics and history of Saudi Arabia.

Languages

Arabic is the official language of Saudi Arabia.

Source: The World Factbook.

Religions

The main religions in Saudi Arabia (2012 est.) are:

  • Sunni Muslim (official): 85 to 90%
  • Shia Muslim (official): 10 to 15%
  • other: includes Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh

Source: The World Factbook.

Migration to the UK

There were over 31,000 people from Saudi Arabia living in England and Wales at the time of the 2011 Census.

Source: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2014.

Published 31 July 2014
Last updated 18 April 2016 + show all updates
  1. Updated advice on helminths and on anaemia based on current prevalence in Saudi Arabia.
  2. First published.