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How the vigilance of nurses can be harnessed in the fight against modern slavery

International Council of Nurses issues guide to help you spot signs a patient was trafficked

International Council of Nurses issues guide to help you spot signs a patient was trafficked


ICN congress speaker and anti-slavery expert Kevin Hyland. Picture: Creative Commons

A London nurse who rescued a woman from slavery after being sold for £200 is an example of how the profession can help combat the problem.

Former UK anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland cited the case at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) congress in Singapore. He was speaking about a new ICN guide to help nurses recognise signs of human trafficking.

One nurse’s fast actions

Mr Hyland revealed that the actions of an emergency nurse at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London who treated a young woman from the Czech Republic, led to police investigations in four countries and a number of prison sentences.

The nurse spotted signs of human trafficking after having undergone awareness training on modern slavery. She took the woman into a side room to talk to her in private and CCTV was then used to help identify two men accompanying her.

It emerged she had been sold on the street earlier that day, and repeatedly raped.

‘Nurses are not expected to become investigators or experts but they can have a very significant role’

Kevin Hyland, former UK anti-slavery commissioner

‘This resulted from one nurse in one A&E department in London,’ Mr Hyland told his audience.

The former Metropolitan police officer added: ‘Nurses are not expected to become investigators or experts but they can have a very significant role,’ he said.


Picture: iStock

A multi-billion dollar trade

Trafficking and modern slavery is estimated to be worth $150 billion worldwide, with 75% of victims being women and children.

One in eight NHS staff in England has seen a victim of trafficking, according to NHS England figures for 2016.

Fellow ICN congress speaker, Cindy McCain, campaigner against human trafficking and widow of the late US presidential candidate senator John McCain, called for nurses' support to combat what she called an ‘epidemic’.

‘Let us work together. Let’s give a voice to the voiceless,’ she said. ‘You have my absolute commitment to help nurses get a seat at the table.’


Related material

RCN Modern Slavery Pocket Guide


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