What do primary care staff know and do about blood borne virus testing and care for migrant patients? A national survey

Rachel Roche, Ruth Simmons, Alison F Crawshaw, Pip Fisher, Manish Pareek, Will Morton, Theresa Shryane, Kristina Poole, Arpana Verma, Ines Campos-Matos, Sema Mandal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: UK migrants born in intermediate to high prevalence areas for blood borne viruses (BBV) including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are at increased risk of these infections. National guidance from Public Health England (PHE) and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends primary care test this population to increase diagnoses and treatment. We aimed to investigate primary care professionals' knowledge of entitlements, and perceptions of barriers, for migrants accessing healthcare, and their policies, and reported practices and influences on provision of BBV testing in migrants.

METHODS: A pre-piloted questionnaire was distributed between October 2017 and January 2018 to primary care professionals attending the Royal College of General Practitioners and Best Practice in Primary Care conferences, via a link in PHE Vaccine Updates and through professional networks. Survey results were analysed to give descriptive statistics, and responses by respondent characteristics: profession, region, practice size, and frequency of seeing migrant patients. Responses were considered on a per question basis with response rates for each question presented with the results.

RESULTS: Four hundred fourteen questionnaires were returned with responses varying by question, representing an estimated 5.7% of English GP practices overall. Only 14% of respondents' practices systematically identified migrant patients for testing. Universal opt-out testing was offered to newly registering migrant patients by 18% of respondents for hepatitis B, 17% for hepatitis C and 21% for HIV. Knowledge of healthcare entitlements varied; fewer clinical staff knew that general practice consultations were free to all migrants (76%) than for urgent care (88%). Performance payment structure (76%) had the greatest reported influence on testing, followed by PHE and Clinical Commissioning Group recommendations (73% each). Language and culture were perceived to be the biggest barriers to accessing care.

CONCLUSIONS: BBV testing for migrant patients in primary care is usually ad hoc, which is likely to lead to testing opportunities being missed. Knowledge of migrants' entitlements to healthcare varies and could affect access to care. Interventions to improve professional awareness and identification of migrant patients requiring BBV testing are needed to reduce the undiagnosed and untreated burden of BBVs in this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2021


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