Health boost for refugees

REFUGEES in the county can soon benefit from a one-stop shop for health and social care advice.A new centre is being set up where refugees can get to see a doctor or a practice nurse, mental health workers and community support workers under one roof.

REFUGEES in the county can soon benefit from a one-stop shop for health and social care advice.

A new centre is being set up where refugees can get to see a doctor or a practice nurse, mental health workers and community support workers under one roof.

The aim is to help asylum seekers and refugees entering the country to reach the level where they can then use the same services as everyone else.

Co-ordinator for Suffolk Community Refugee Team (SCRT), Susan Stallabrass, said the new project was not about giving refugees better health care than UK residents.

She said: "It will bring asylum seekers up to the levels of local people so they can access the same services in the same way as local people do.

"It is not about fast forwarding them through waiting lists at the hospital.

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"It is just about providing them with some support to get over the barriers of using some services."

Ms Stallabrass has been working with the SCRT in Ipswich for two years and used to do the job alone.

Now with funding through Ipswich Primary Care Trust, a part time GP and practice nurse, mental health worker and community support worker and social worker can be on hand to help refugees.

At the moment the team is based in Allington House in Woodbridge Road but it is hoped a drop in centre could be opened in St. Helen's Street in February.

Suffering

When they first enter the country, many refugees are malnourished and in an impoverished condition with a string of health problems that need to be cleared up and various jabs that need to be given.

Many of them come from war torn countries and may be suffering from gun shot wounds or may have been raped and tortured.

GP's seven or ten minute appointment times are not long enough to deal with a lot of problems at once so the new project can ensure that many of the initial problems are cleared up before they register with a regular GP.

Ms Stallabrass said: "It will stop asylum seekers being pushed from one agency to the other.

"Every time they are passed on to another agency there is a huge amount of work following from where they have been before."

Ipswich is an emergency station for asylum seekers before they go to dispersal centres in bigger cities such as Manchester, London or Birmingham, so very often they only pass through the county.

Ms Stallabrass said the main health problems they have are associated with poverty and poor standards of health care in their own countries.

Most, such as scabies, are easily cleared up. There have been fears across the country of asylum seekers bringing in tuberculosis, but Ms Stallabrass said she has only see four cases of the disease in Ipswich in two years.

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