Help for refugees and asylum seekers to understand their rights
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Health and well-being

Refugees and asylum seekers have often experienced physical or mental trauma on their journey to Wales. Ensuring refugees and asylum seekers can access health services, including mental health services is one of the priorities in our Nation of Sanctuary plan. This section of the website explains how and where you can receive healthcare. All asylum seekers and refugees can access free medical treatment from the National Health Service (NHS) in Wales. You are entitled to be provided with relevant information in a language you understand. It is the responsibility of health services to arrange free interpretation to make sure you can communicate properly.

NHS Wales offers free screening tests to members of the public to check if they are at increased risk of some diseases. These tests can make sure you can access treatment to improve your health outcome if you are found to have an increased risk of developing a disease. You will need to register with a GP to make sure you are offered screening at the right time. For more information go to Public Health Wales Screening website

Those who are in the asylum process who are becoming parents, or who already have children, are faced with many challenges in their new homes. There are various resources to help parents online. One of these is the Solihull Approach  which offers advice on subjects such as child behaviour, feeding, sleeping and using the toilet. These resources are available in Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Punjabi and other languages.  

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Registering with health services
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Refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to access General Practitioner (GP) surgeries. A GP is a family doctor. You must register with a GP to ensure you can access treatment when you are sick. GPs can decide whether to register refused asylum seekers. They have to offer immediate necessary treatment for anyone who normally lives outside their area. If you cannot be registered as a permanent resident in the area, you could be treated as a temporary resident for at least 14 days. If you are an asylum seeker then ‘Clearsprings Ready Homes’ should assist you to be registered with a GP. If you are having trouble being accepted by a GP surgery, your Local Health Board is able to register you to a surgery.To find a GP surgery near you visit NHS Direct Wales.

It is the responsibility of health boards to arrange free interpretation for appointments with doctors and hospital visits. The service will need to know that you need an interpreter before you arrive as they will need to book this for you. .

Immigration status and health

Asylum seekers do not have to provide their immigration status when registering with health services. Health services may ask for identification when deciding whether you are entitled to free treatment. Asylum seekers should show an ‘Asylum Registration Card (ARC)’. You can also show a letter from the UK Government explaining that the asylum application has been refused. Some refused asylum seekers may be concerned about giving their details to the Local Health Board. The Local Health Board will not share your details with the UK Government. This is because we believe it is important that you seek treatment if you need it.

If you are an asylum seeker living in ‘Initial Accommodation’ in Cardiff you can access the ‘Cardiff Health Access Practice’ (CHAP). CHAP is run by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. CHAP will make contact with you during your stay to offer you a health screening appointment. CHAP can also arrange vaccinations or immunisations. We recommend you accept this offer as the service can ensure any health issues are properly understood and treated as soon as possible. 

If you are in asylum accommodation in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport or Wrexham the Local Health Board will have an ‘asylum nurse’ available. They will help you register with health services in the local area. ‘Clearsprings Ready Homes’ should be able to identify the asylum nurse if needed.

Dental

A dentist ensures your teeth are healthy. You do not need to register with a dentist but free dental treatment will only be available at a dentist which accepts NHS patients. You can find a local NHS dentist by searching in your local area at the NHS Direct website. If you need emergency dental treatment, you can contact the dental help line at NHS Direct Wales.

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Getting medical help
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Once you have registered with a GP, you can receive routine medical care. This is usually through an appointment system. You will need to ask your GP for details about how appointments can be booked at your surgery. You can also ask to be seen by a male or female doctor if possible. You can ask for a home visit if you are disabled or too unwell to visit the GP surgery.

It is the responsibility of health boards to arrange free interpretation for appointments with doctors and hospital visits. The service will need to know that you need an interpreter before you arrive as they will need to book this for you. .

Lots of health advice can be found on the NHS Direct Wales website or on the telephone, without the need to wait for a GP appointment. NHS Direct has an interpretation service which helps people who do not speak English or Welsh to get help in a language of their choice. More information about the help NHS Direct Wales can give to those who do not speak English or Welsh can be found on their website

The NHS in Wales aims to provide the best care and treatment but sometimes treatment may go wrong. When this happens you can make a complaint. It may be easiest to speak with those giving you treatment but if you do not want to do this, you can talk to the Health Board’s complaints team. Visit the Health in Wales website to find out more about making a complaint

Emergency medical treatment can be sought by calling 999 and asking for an ambulance. This must only be used in an emergency. If you do not speak or understand English, speak in your own language. The call operator will arrange an interpreter. It is important you say where you are, including the address and post code.

Prescriptions for medicines are free for all in Wales. Medicines can be collected from local pharmacies or chemists.

Many health services in Wales run ‘Out of Hours’ services between 6:30pm and 8:00am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on public holidays. This is when many healthcare settings may be closed. During ‘out of hours’ periods you may still be able to telephone your GP surgery and you may be redirected to another service. You can also contact NHS Direct Wales on 08454647 for advice and information.

NHS Wales provides ‘screening’ to test members of the public for various types of disease at different points in life. This includes types of Cancer, Heart disease and disorders affecting healthy child development. More information about screening programmes can be found at the Screening for Life website.

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Mental health and well-being
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Looking after your mental health and well-being is a very important part of keeping healthy. Anyone can feel anxious, worried or stressed at different times in their life. You are likely to have experienced traumatic events and adjusting to life in a new country can be very difficult. You can talk to your GP if you feel stressed or that life is not worth living. Your GP may be able to find you some expert help. If you want to talk to someone about these problems, the Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is confidential. You can call them on 116 123.  There are other organisations trying to help refugees and asylum seekers who feel this way. You may be able to Find Help from a local refugee or asylum seeker support organisation.

Many refugees and asylum seekers will experience something called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Someone with PTSD may relive trauma through nightmares and flashbacks. You may feel isolated or guilty about what happened. You may have trouble sleeping and concentrating. PTSD can affect you straight after a disturbing event or months or years later. If you think you, or someone you know, is suffering with PTSD you should talk to your GP about this.

Asylum seekers can spend many months waiting for the UK Government to decide their asylum application. During this time, you may feel isolated and feel like giving up. Volunteering with a charity or participating in physical activity can be good ways to improve your well-being. You may be able to Find Help from a local refugee or asylum seeker support organisation.

Children and young people can also be affected by poor mental health or well-being. Secondary schools have counselling services which can be used by pupils if they feel worried, anxious or confused. 

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Maternity and reproductive health
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If you are pregnant you should notify the GP surgery to ensure that you receive support during your pregnancy from NHS midwives. After the baby is born, ‘health visitors’ will provide you with advice and support to ensure your baby is developing well. NHS Wales provides ‘screening’ services to check that your baby is healthy. This includes checks before the baby is born and when they are new born. More information about child screening programmes can be found at the Screening for Life website. Children registered with a GP in Wales can also receive a range of vaccinations to help keep them, their family and neighbours safe. These vaccines are offered free. More information about available childhood vaccines can be found at the NHS Direct Wales website.

The NHS provides a range of reproductive health services which can help you to make informed decisions. This includes advice about contraception, sexually transmitted infections, abortion and family planning. They can also help if you have been sexually assaulted. More information about sexual health can be found at the NHS Direct Wales website. Using contraception and abortion are legal in the UK and can be provided safely and without charge.

Smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy can damage your baby’s development. Advice and help to stop smoking can be found at the ‘Help Me Quit’ website. Advice about how to stop drinking alcohol can be found at the Alcohol Change website.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you can find more information which could help you on the Staying Safe page of this website.