Opening the Eyes of Healthcare Providers: Equipping Staff to See, Hear & Respond to Modern Slavery in their Patients


Rosie Riley, BSc, MBChB & Laura C. N. Wood, BM, MA, MRCPCH | September 19 | 1:30-2:30 PM

Topic: Healthcare | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced | Location: TBD

Victims of trafficking are presenting in healthcare settings, yet studies show that they often remain ‘hidden in plain sight’ in the hospitals and clinics because healthcare professionals don't know how to identify, respond, and safeguard them (Oram et al, 2016; Katsanis et al, 2019). Professionals may be blinkered to treating the physical injury but miss holistically assessing the individual and their potentially life-threatening situation. Crucial opportunities to empower and intervene in a survivor’s life are being lost. Trafficking survivors often feel unable to spontaneously disclose their abusive situation to health professionals due to complex, layered fears, threats, confusions and misunderstandings. However, to a sensitive professional, their speech, behavior, mental state and physical appearance may well give clues that something is wrong. If that attending health professional is then equipped to manage a potential slavery scenario safely and confidently, including tailored screening questions, techniques for removing suspicious accompanying individuals from the room without raising alarm and an understanding of next steps, the chance for a victim to be well supported greatly increases. This workshop will cover the reality of human trafficking and how it relates to healthcare, the approach and lessons learnt from the USA’s healthcare-led responses, and VITA’s plans to transform the assessment and care of modern slavery survivors in the UK National Health Service.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Discuss how victims of trafficking may present in healthcare settings

·  Discuss what physical, mental, behavioural and other clues to trafficking may be disclosed or detected in the healthcare setting

·  Discuss what actions are appropriate and safe for a healthcare professional to take when a patient is a suspected modern slavery victim

·  Discuss existing training programs for healthcare professionals across the USA, drawing important lessons

·  Discuss the development and strategy of VITA training in the UK, identifying key recommendations for implementing a national training program

About the Presenters