Psychiatrists plan network to help asylum seekers

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 22 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:535
  1. Christina Bunce
  1. Cornwall

    Psychiatrists who have become increasingly concerned about the mental health care of asylum seekers detained by the British government are appealing for help to establish a nationwide network of specialists trained to deal with detainees' particular problems.

    They say that the current provision of psychiatric care to asylum seekers held in prisons or Home Office detention centres is inadequate. They argue that specialist knowledge is needed to deal with the psychiatric needs of detainees, many of whom already suffer from the effects of torture or bereavement when they come to Britain.

    Dr Sashi Sashidharan, professor of community psychiatry at the University of Birmingham and clinical director of Northern Birmingham NHS Trust, says that, although asylum seekers theoretically have access to appropriate care, in practice they do not get it. “The present medical system (in prisons and detention centres) is not equipped to spot many of the psychiatric conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that asylum seekers present with. What makes it worse is that people who are kept …

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