Health workers on the look-out

Staff have been asked to watch out for signs of human trafficking.
Staff have been asked to watch out for signs of human trafficking.

SOUTHSIDE nurses are being taught how discern potential victims of human trafficking.

Nurses who fear patients are in this situation can then take steps to make the people safe.

NHSGG consultant clinical psychologist Dr Sharon Doherty welcomed the move: “Trafficked men and women can be trapped in sexual slavery and forced labour or domestic servitude here in Glasgow, in some cases held captive for many years in a locked, single room.

“Anything health staff can do to identify victims of trafficking and make it difficult for traffickers to use the UK as a destination is vital”.

The new guidance is designed to offer support and practical help to health professionals who have concerns about how a patient has been brought into the country or how they may be being used by gangs or individuals once here.

Dr Doherty, who provides mental health care to asylum seekers, refugees and trafficked people, added: “Trafficking does exist in Glasgow and traffickers have been able to use the fact that health professionals and other agencies may not be fully aware of the issue.

“In some cases people are being held captive for many years in a locked room or house.

“Others may have some freedom but are still under the control of traffickers.

“It is akin to slavery.

“By increasing awareness amongst health staff about this issue, I think it will make it increasingly difficult for traffickers to use the UK as a destination”.

NHSGGC director of corporate planning Catriona Renfrew said: “Human trafficking is a very real problem in the west of Scotland with gangs or individuals tricking men and women to enter this country with false promises of work, only to end up as modern day slaves, or coercing them into prostitution.

“Trafficking exists in Scotland and contact with a health worker may be the one chance for a trafficked person to get help and protection.

“This is a cruel trade in human lives and staff can play an important role by picking up on injuries or behaviour and people can contact the police or other appropriate authorities and services”.

There are numerous clues to look out for when dealing with a person you think may have been trafficked.

This includes injuries from assault or scars, signs of rape or sexual abuse, or post traumatic stress or psychological disorders.

Those people coming from a migrant community may be accompanied by a minder who they defer to and who speaks for them.

The person may seem nervous when communicating and seem unaware of basic details when speaking of the relative they are living with.

Dr Doherty added: “Health staff should try to make the most of an appointment, as they would when there is a background of suspected domestic abuse.

“Staff should always use a contracted interpreter rather than a ‘family’ member and interview the patient alone, indicating that this is normal practice.

“They should also find out as much as possible about patients living circumstances but without putting pressure on the patient to disclose, because this could put them at further risk of harm.

“If staff have the courage to raise questions in their minds about the situation their patient may be in, this might make the world of difference to the person sitting in front of them”.