Doctors of the World: Healthcare for everyone

Lucy Jones - Doctors of the World

Lucy Jones, Director of Programmes at Doctors of the World UK, supports access to healthcare for excluded people around the world. She joined the charity to ensure no-one lives without access to healthcare.

Welcome, Lucy. Tell me a little about yourself.

I am the Director of Programmes at Doctors of the World UK. Since joining in 2013, I have managed our national programmes, policy and advocacy work. I joined because I feel passionately that no-one should have to live without access to healthcare because of who they are or where they live. We all have a duty to protect the most vulnerable.

I worked in the NHS for eight years where I managed large hospital departments and commissioned community services. I have a BSc in Politics and Sociology and an MSc in Healthcare Leadership and Management.

What is Doctors of the World?

Doctors of the World is an independent humanitarian movement working at home and abroad to empower excluded people to access healthcare. We are one of 16 branches working around the globe. In 2018, the Doctors of the World network provided care in 79 countries with over 300 programmes in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

What is the history of the organisation?

In 1979, after disagreement over how best to help the Vietnamese boat refugees, a group of 15 doctors led by Bernard Kouchner split from Médecins Sans Frontières. The following year, Doctors of the World was formally established ‘to go where others will not, to testify to the intolerable, and to volunteer’.

“Our vision is of a world without barriers to health, where healthcare is recognised as a fundamental right”

In 1998, Doctors of the World UK became a registered charity in England and Wales supporting projects in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and in 2006 set up a clinic in Bethnal Green, London to provide information and medical assistance to people excluded from NHS healthcare.

What are your objectives?

Our vision is of a world without barriers to health, where healthcare is recognised as a fundamental right. We have four key objectives: to strengthen health systems, so that they can provide quality and equitable healthcare; to ensure vulnerable people can receive the healthcare they need during emergencies and ensure that health systems are rebuilt; to achieve healthcare policy and practice that treats excluded people equally; and to create a nationwide movement of activists standing up for the right to health.

What areas do you work in?

We work wherever there is war, natural disasters, famine, poverty, or exclusion, with four priority areas: conflict and crisis, harm reduction, refugees and migrants, sexual and reproductive health.

In the Middle East, our work is closely connected to the conflicts that are disrupting the region and displacing populations. We assist victims on the frontlines, refugees and displaced persons. In around 20 countries across the African continent, we provide access to medical care for vulnerable populations. Besides sexual and reproductive health programmes, much of our work is on harm reduction related to drug use and also HIV prevention.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, we focus nationally and regionally on sexual and reproductive health. In Asia, our programmes mostly address women and children, particularly providing support to pregnant women. However, we also respond to crises affecting the continent, such as in Pakistan where we assist displaced tribal populations. In Europe, we work with migrants, women and homeless people.

Why are you needed?

In the UK, we estimate there are more than 50,000 people who need our support to access healthcare. We need to expand across the UK to get healthcare access to marginalised communities, who have wrongfully been refused or are too frightened to try to access healthcare.

Internationally, we support people to access healthcare in conflict zones, refugee camps, and rural communities.

We fight for people who are otherwise invisible.

“Doctors of the World works both long and short term, through emergency programmes, support to local healthcare systems, witnessing and advocacy”

What work do you do in the UK?

In our Bethnal Green clinic, volunteer doctors, nurses, and caseworkers offer basic healthcare and practical support to register with GP practices. The people we see are very vulnerable, the majority are destitute, and many are living in poverty. Some have been trafficked and work in exploitative situations. Most don’t know they can access healthcare, and those who have tried have been turned away. We provide medical care, information and practical support to excluded people to help them get into the health system.
We have a mobile clinic where we can provide on-site medical consultations to people who can’t access the NHS or travel to our clinic. The van visits partner organisations that work with vulnerable migrants and homeless people.

We want to improve the system so people don’t need to come to us for help. We are working with the NHS to create a network of ‘Safe Surgeries’. These GP practices offer equitable care to those that need it and commit to remove barriers to access. This has been a great success with nearly 100 practices signed up.

…and around the world?

Doctors of the World works both long and short term, through emergency programmes, support to local healthcare systems, witnessing and advocacy.

We’ve provided essential healthcare to Syrian refugees in the Middle East. After the Ebola crisis gripped West Africa in 2014, we helped run a treatment centre in Sierra Leone. Doctors of the World UK has also worked extensively with refugees in France and Greece, running both static and mobile clinics.

We have been working in Nepal on community-based health programmes to restore local health services. In Russia, we have provided HIV and sexually transmitted infection services to Moscow’s sex workers. Doctors of the World is also working in Greece to provide mental health support to refugees, migrants and the Greek population, strengthening the local healthcare system.

What does the future hold?

We have ambitious plans to reach more people in 2019. As the only organisation
doing this work in the UK, we are looking to expand our programmes, opening clinics in Birmingham and Manchester. Overseas, we will also deploy our first Global Clinic, an innovative clinic design currently on display at the Wellcome Collection.

Exciting times ahead.

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