25 November 2008
Up to 2000 children are held in UK detention centres each year, usually they are children of families who have been refused asylum or who have overstayed their visas. Following a visit to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in February 2008 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, stated that “the plight of detained children remained of great concern”, particularly those incarcerated for long periods of time, and “Healthcare needed further improvement, particularly to address mental health and child health needs”.
Problems that GPs face when called to provide primary care to detainees include having to see patients without their medical records and having little time to assess patients. There is little continuity of care for children with chronic illnesses, routine immunisations are often missed and the clinical care provided is not always adequate.
The Lancet article
refers to Nick Lessof of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Advocacy Committee who saw two children with sickle-cell disease, who had both had a high fever, in Yarl's Wood in May this year. The children's prophylactic penicillin had been stopped and they were unable to take fluids, yet had not been admitted to hospital. Earlier this year, Frank Arnold of Medical Justice examined another child with sickle-cell crisis who had not been given adequate analgesia and was expected to walk, despite being in pain, from his room to the health-care facility to obtain treatment.
The human rights department at Leigh Day & Co represents a number of young clients who have been held in detention centres and who have experienced problems in obtaining the appropriate levels of health care that they need during that detention.
Frances Swaine, head of the human rights department, says "Although there are theoretically systems in place for proper phsyical and mental health assessment and treatment of children held in detention centres we are finding again and again that these systems have not been properly followed up. Apart from the fact that failure to treat children is an inhuman approach, it is also illegal. It is clearly not the doctors themselves who are failing to treat, but a failure on behalf of the Home Office to identify patients. We would support any changes which would lead to adequate healthcare provision for any child in detention, whether Yarls Wood or other places."
For more information please contact Frances Swaine
on 020 7650 1200.
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