Eastern European migrants’ use and experience of UK healthcare services (search done in February 2017)

Added March 16, 2022

Citation: Phung VH, Asghar Z, Matiti M, et al. Understanding how Eastern European migrants use and experience UK health services: a systematic scoping review. BMC Health Services Research. 2020;20:173.

Language: Abstract and full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: This review was part of a PhD thesis for which some of the tuition fees were funded by the College of Social Science at the University of Lincoln, UK.

What is this? Many people migrated from Eastern Europe to the UK after countries from the region joined the European Union in 2004. Information on their experiences with healthcare services might help policy makers and practitioners who are designing services and providing care.

In this systematic scoping review, the authors searched for studies of the use and experiences of healthcare services among Eastern European migrants in the UK. They restricted their searches to articles published in English between 1980 and 2016. They included 7 quantitative, 5 qualitative and 1 mixed-method studies.

What was found: Limited understanding of how the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK operates and language barriers were common challenges to accessing and using healthcare services.

Language barriers, long waiting times, limited access to specialists and not being registered with a general practitioner (GP) were factors that influenced Eastern European migrants who returned to their country of origin to seek health care.

Family and social networks play an important role in overcoming language related-difficulties and helping Eastern European migrants to understand the UK healthcare system.

Implications: The authors of the review stated that healthcare providers need to understand and address the reasons that Eastern European migrants in the UK return to their country of origin to seek health care, highlighted the need for an effective solution to increase registration with a GP and for the provision of information about how the NHS works in Eastern European languages, perhaps working with community groups to distribute this. They also stated that improving the availability and quality translation and interpreting services could help to address language barriers and that adding a nationality section to the NHS’ Electronic Patient Report Form could help service providers understand the demand for different languages. Finally, they noted the possible relevance of their findings to other European countries responding to changing flows of migration.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of minority ethnic groups and personal characteristics associated with discrimination (migrants).


This summary was prepared by Tuba Yavuz, edited by Emma Thompson and finalized by Mike Clarke.

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