Letters

The beginning of dispersal for asylum seekers in the UK brings about a major challenge for health services across the country.

Health authorities in the designated 'cluster areas' need to plan now to ensure adequate health and social care for refugees is provided and coordinated.

HAs should work with local authorities, primary care groups and trusts to build a robust support system for asylum seekers' health. They need to think about providing interpreting and screening services, and about training primary care workers in how to work with refugees sensitively and appropriately.

The refugee experience makes people particularly vulnerable to both physical and mental ill-health.

Refugees are often resourceful and resilient. But they do need support to get access to health and social care services. Many will not be aware of the support that is available, others reluctant to use it because of unpleasant previous experiences with authorities. The key for HAs is to be sure they communicate the support that is available, and make that support as accessible and sensitive as possible.

They should ensure that clear information on the rights of refugees, in particular the right of all asylum seekers to free NHS care, is disseminated to all agencies in their areas.

Naaz Coker Director of race and diversity King's Fund