Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Christmas 2018: Christmas Spirit

The BMJ Christmas appeal 2018: a new clinic for the UK’s most vulnerable patients

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 13 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5165
  1. Jane Feinmann, freelance journalist
  1. London
  1. jane{at}

Doctors of the World plans to open new premises soon to help undocumented migrants, which is one reason The BMJ has chosen to support the charity for its Christmas appeal, writes Jane Feinmann. Please give generously

The Doctors of the World clinic in Bethnal Green, east London, is the last word in no frills healthcare. Its volunteer staff—four support workers and two clinicians, normally GPs, at any one time—cram into the dingy back basement of a decaying Victorian church in London’s east end.

Since 2006, however, this permanent clinic has been a beacon of hope and a last resort for tens of thousands of people who are effectively excluded from mainstream health services in the UK.

The global charity Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) is The BMJ’s Christmas charity this year. Such is the demand for its services, donations could help the charity’s plan to move the Bethnal Green clinic to larger premises in Stratford and to open new permanent clinics in other UK cities such as Birmingham.

Under the radar, often destitute

“The people who come here are living and often working in our communities, yet they are under the radar, often destitute, frequently undocumented, and without access to the commodities that we take for granted,” says Sarah Pillai, a GP in Winchmore Hill, London. She is one of 30 GPs on the charity’s rota, providing a minimum of one session a month.

Maria (not her real name) is a nanny in north London who has severe eczema, a problem that she might be able to manage with prescription drugs. But, as an undocumented migrant, she was turned away …

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