Médecins du Monde, an international aid agency providing emergency medical assistance in developing countries, has announced that it will set up three medical centres in London’s East End to provide free basic primary healthcare to homeless people, refugees, asylum-seekers and street sex workers. Teams of medical and non-medical volunteers will provide advice, practical support and some basic medical care to these groups.
The initiative, called Project: London, is based on similar Médecins du Monde projects in Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. It would be expanded to other major British cities if successful.
The Healthcare Commission has given preliminary approval to the three clinics, in the premises of local charities, and is due to make a final inspection within two months. Médecins du Monde have been training a volunteer group of doctors and nurses on how to operate the clinics, which should be open by July or August. The project will be phased in gradually, and is due to launch later in 2005.
Tim Finch, Director of Communications for the Refugee Council said:
“Changes in government regulations last year have removed access to secondary health care from failed asylum seekers, including families with children, and proposals are under consideration to remove access to primary care as well.
As well as putting people’s health at risk, the new rules have increased confusion over who is entitled to what, and have meant that there have been instances where even people who are entitled to healthcare have been denied it.”
Karen McColl, director of Médecins du Monde UK, said in a statement that:
“Providing healthcare to marginalised people in developed countries, as well as developing ones, is an integral part of the humanitarian work of the 25-year-old MdM network.”