Skip to main content

March 01, 2021

New campaign launched to ensure no one is left behind from Covid-19 vaccine and primary health services

Today, a letter signed by South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, Lewisham Council, Doctors of the World (DOTW) UK and Lewisham Refugees and Migration Network, was sent to every GP practice in Lewisham to promote GP registration and an inclusive vaccine uptake.

This comes with a recent NHS England campaign on GP registration with ‘access cards’ for people in vulnerable situations to facilitate their access to healthcare and the vaccine.

Lewisham is leading by example to help ensure that people in vulnerable circumstances can see a doctor when they need to.

By joining the growing national network of Safe Surgeries, Lewisham GP practices are committing to providing inclusive and accessible services for everyone in their community, regardless of their social, cultural or immigration background, which will essentially help for an equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine.

This growing community of GPs and healthcare professionals represents a powerful movement to tackle the most common barriers to GP registration, including lack of paperwork, language and poor understanding of healthcare entitlements.

Dr Yusuf Ciftci, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Doctors of the World, emphasised the importance of the growth of this network of Safe Surgeries: “With its diverse population, Lewisham has been one of the key locations in the Safe Surgeries Network and we have already been working with 15 GP practices who are in Safe Surgeries to make sure there are no barriers for migrants to register with a GP.”

“Working towards being a Borough of Sanctuary, Lewisham is the place that we want to see all surgeries are ‘safe’ surgeries and everyone is offered the vaccine, regardless of their immigration status.”

Hera Lorandos, Campaigns and Communications Officer, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, said: “From early on, we realised that many migrants living in Lewisham would miss out on getting the vaccine if they didn’t register with their local GPs. But we also knew that many people hadn’t registered because of the barriers to accessing GP services. Thanks to the Safe Surgeries initiative, many of these barriers are being brought down. We’re so pleased that all of us working in Lewisham have promoted the initiative, all in our collective efforts to become a Borough of Sanctuary.”

Cllr Kevin Bonavia, Cabinet Member for Democracy, Refugees and Accountability, Lewisham Council said: “Migrants and refugees are more likely to face social and cultural challenges in accessing healthcare and it is more important than ever that more GP practices in Lewisham commit to providing inclusive services. As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out to the wider population we need to ensure nobody is left behind – both for their own and everyone’s protection. We must continue to do all we can to reassure everyone in our community that GP surgeries are safe places and available for them.”

What is the Safe Surgeries Initiative?

In recognition of the increasing workloads faced by GP practice staff and the barriers to registration faced by many patients, DOTW UK launched the Safe Surgeries initiative in June 2018 to support GP practices to provide safe and accessible services to everyone in their community.

Doctors of the World UK hosts the network and supports Safe Surgeries with training, resources, advice and ongoing support. Lewisham CCG and GP practices have been engaged with the scheme since the beginning.

The Safe Surgeries community is growing all the time and now counts members in London, Manchester, Norwich, Sheffield, Cambridge and Birmingham with nearly 400 GP surgeries.


Notes to editors

Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN)

LRMN has worked with refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants for about 28 years. We empower refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants with a specialist and holistic service. We advocate for people’s rights, campaign for wider change, meet their basic needs and help them improve their wellbeing.

Hera Lorandos | | | @lrmnetwork

Lewisham Borough of Sanctuary

The Lewisham Migration Forum is co-ordinating the collective effort for Lewisham to become a Borough of Sanctuary, welcoming those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries and protecting the rights of all migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. Our aim is to get individuals and businesses in the borough to join us in enacting the principles of the Cities of Sanctuary movement.

Doctors of the World UK

In the UK, Doctors of the World runs a volunteer-led clinic in east London, staffed by GPs and nurses, that helps people who have been unable to access NHS services to get the healthcare they need. We see between 1,500-2,000 patients every year.

The majority of our patients are undocumented migrants and asylum seekers whose claims have been refused (60% in 2017) and 11% were asylum seekers. Individuals who come to our clinic are often in urgent need of medical attention, including heavily pregnant women and people with cancer and other acute illnesses. On average, our patients have been living in the UK almost 6 years, without ever having been registered with a GP.

For more information please contact: Yusuf Ciftci | | 07448944347