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Healthcare support for Ukrainian refugees: advice for nurses

As thousands sign up to the UK's Homes for Ukraine scheme, new guidance for primary care staff offers advice on caring for those fleeing war and helping them access services

As thousands sign up to the UK's Homes for Ukraine scheme, new guidance for primary care staff offers advice on caring for those fleeing war and helping them access services

Primary care and community nurses could soon be called on to care for Ukrainian refugees, as the government takes steps to make it easier for people fleeing the war to seek safety in the UK.

On Tuesday 15 March, the government launched its Homes for Ukraine scheme, which allows people to register to provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. More than 100,000 people signed up on the first day.

First NHS interactions for Ukrainian refugees

As thousands sign up to the UK's Homes for Ukraine scheme, new guidance for primary care staff offers advice on caring for those fleeing war and helping them access services

Silhouettes of people walking with luggage overlaid on the Ukrainian flag
Picture: Alamy

Primary care and community nurses could soon be called on to care for Ukrainian refugees, as the government takes steps to make it easier for people fleeing the war to seek safety in the UK.

On Tuesday 15 March, the government launched its Homes for Ukraine scheme, which allows people to register to provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. More than 100,000 people signed up on the first day.

First NHS interactions for Ukrainian refugees

NHS England has offered advice to healthcare professionals in primary care, many of whom will be the first point of contact for Ukrainian people seeking healthcare. It also highlighted the government’s updated advice and guidance on the health needs of people arriving from Ukraine.

The guidance includes a checklist for healthcare professionals to consult, which includes working with a professional interpreter, acknowledging the impact of culture, religion and gender on health, and assessing for mental health conditions.

Advice for nurses from the Queen’s Nursing Institute

Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) homeless and inclusion health project lead Kendra Schneller told Nursing Standard the health system in Ukraine is very different to that in the UK, so nurses may need to help refugees navigate the NHS.

‘UK nurses will soon find themselves called on to help refugees from the conflict as they struggle with physical, mental and emotional health problems,’ she said. ‘When working with Ukrainian refugees remember that this could be their first time in the UK and language could be a barrier to understanding and providing effective care.

‘Take time to ensure that key information such as times, dates, locations and names have been clearly understood. Write information down and check details carefully.’

The QNI runs a homeless and inclusion health network for nurses supporting people, including refugees, who may find it difficult to access health services due to barriers including language, lack of familiarity with a foreign health system or individual trauma.

It also operates a telephone listening service, Talk to Us, for any nurse in a community setting who wants to talk about work or life challenges that are affecting them.

Kendra Schneller

Tips on caring for Ukrainian refugees

Kendra Schneller, Queen’s Nursing Institute homeless and inclusion health project lead, advises healthcare staff:

  • Try to make healthcare settings more welcoming with signs or pictures
  • Try learning some Ukrainian words to help overcome any lack of trust or shyness
  • Remember that asking certain questions could trigger painful memories
  • Provide information about local community and voluntary services

Supporting refugees to access NHS services

In its weekly primary care bulletin, NHS England said refugees will need support registering for a GP and accessing NHS services.

‘Individuals may struggle to provide proof of ID, address or confirmation of immigration status and their registration requests should be managed sensitively,’ it said.

‘None of these documents are required for registration and the inability of any individual to provide them is no reason to refuse registration.’

Healthcare and screening for Ukrainian refugees

The government's guidance on the health needs of migrant patients from Ukraine advises healthcare professionals to follow its guide on how to comprehensively assess new migrant patients.

It also advises healthcare staff to:

  • Screen all new entrants, including children, for tuberculosis
  • Look for hepatitis B risk factors
  • Consider screening for hepatitis C
  • Look for symptoms of typhoid infection
  • Consider nutritional and metabolic concerns
  • Assess for mental health and trauma conditions
  • Check all patients, including children, are up to date with the UK immunisation schedule, including COVID-19 vaccinations
  • Refer pregnant women to antenatal care

Find out more


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