New tools to help NHS staff spot and give help to people who have been illegally trafficked have been published by the government.
Last year, 1,186 potential victims of trafficking were identified through the UK’s victim support framework the National Referral Mechanism – an increase of 25% compared to 2011.
Most are then forced to work or are sexually exploited. Foreign nationals make up the majority of those who are trafficked but UK residents can also be trafficked around the country and abroad.
Telltale signs could include someone who is afraid to speak to a nurse or reluctant to explain how an injury occurred. A victim may also be vague when explaining where they live, work or go to school or be with someone who insists on speaking for them.
Public health minister Anna Soubry said: “Surgeries and hospitals are sometimes the only place where victims come into contact with people who care and are concerned for their welfare so it is vital that we make the most of these opportunities.
“I encourage all NHS staff to complete this training so they can save someone who is suffering from an unimaginably awful life.”
In many cases, victims need treatment for health problems so NHS staff are uniquely placed to spot, treat and support victims of trafficking.
If staff have concerns about a possible victim, and need more advice, they can contact the Salvation Army who offer a wide range of support, which includes securing accommodation, counselling and assistance with asylum applications or voluntary repatriation.
If someone is judged to be in immediate danger, staff should call 999.
Jill Demilew, consultant midwife at King’s College Hospital and chair of the steering group that designed the tool, said it was a “vital resource”
“I believe it offers my colleagues and peers working across the health service, the key information they need to identify victims of human trafficking.”