Beth Connelly is one of our volunteer nurses and has been at Project:London since 2010. She retrained last year and in addition to her voluntary work she is a fulltime caseload community midwife. As a nurse Beth sees clients in the clinic and does basic health checks, gives advice, makes referrals when necessary and advocates for the service users.
“I was interested in getting involved with Doctors of the World UK and I found out about Project:London and soon realised that health inequalities are not only present in developing countries! It saddened me to think that we neglect so many people when we have the NHS, and I wanted to use my skills to be able to help.
I am inspired by many of the people that come into clinic; many have fled war zones, left violent relationships or were forced to leave their homeland due to political corruption. Many people really do believe healthcare is a luxury rather than a human right, and are very grateful for the service. They do not want pity or money, they just want to be treated with respect and keep as healthy as they can. I try to ensure that service users find a GP or health services so they can receive ongoing primary healthcare. I have learned a lot about immigration rights in the UK and realise how misleading and manipulative the media can be.”
"Working as a nurse in the NHS for four years has given me to the opportunity to work with many different ethnicity groups. I have furthered my understanding of other people’s cultures and beliefs.. However, I have been appalled by the way in which some people have been treated because of their immigration status. The NMC code of conduct states that as nurses, we should:
‘make the care of people your first concern, treating them as individuals and respecting their dignity.’(1)
However, there are ongoing barriers that restrict our abilities to deliver good quality care to every human being. With an increased awareness of health equalities in the NHS the Department of Health insists that:
‘Putting human rights at the heart of the way healthcare services are designed and delivered can make for better services for everyone, with patient and staff experiences reflecting the core values of fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy’(2).
So if nurses were to act as advocates for those in our care and help them to access relevant health and social care, information and support, why does Project:London need to exist? There is a huge injustice when it comes to care in the NHS and this problem needs to be addressed.
For example, a very anxious Iranian woman brought her 3 year old child to the Project:London clinic. Escaping from a violent relationship and catastrophic social consequences of her decision to leave her husband, she came to England for safety and protection. Her daughter had previously been diagnosed with epilepsy and had been on anti-convulsants since she was a baby. After running out of this medication, she tried to register her daughter with her local GP in north London. The response she received shocked and saddened me. She was told ‘to take her to hospital if she has a fit, or come back when you have the correct documents’. This is just one of hundreds of stories I have heard about the barriers people are facing in accessing primary healthcare in the UK. I believe the attitude of staff towards these vulnerable people is due to ignorance and misguided management, not a lack of empathy or compassion for their client’s healthcare needs. Lately there has been a big emphasis on choice and patient-centred care in the NHS. In contrast to this I now have greater understanding as to why so many undocumented people end up in A&E; ironically, it seems they really do have no other choice.
Why Beth is supporting the Doctors of the World UK E-petition ‘Health Is Not A Luxury’:
I urge all nurses to sign Doctors of the World’s 'Health Is Not A Luxury’ E-petition calling for the right of vulnerable migrants to access healthcare regardless of their ability to pay. I’m outraged by the lack of care being provided for these people! As nurses, we cannot do our jobs properly whilst these barriers remain so do something today to make a difference and help these people."
(1)Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) The code: standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. Nursing and Midwifery Council: London.
(2)Department of Health (2008) Human rights in healthcare: a framework for local action. DH Publications: London.