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The role of the paramedic in identifying modern slavery

02 December 2020
Volume 10 · Issue 4



Modern slavery is the recruitment or harbouring of people through the use of force and coercion for exploitation. Paramedics have significant potential and unique opportunities regarding the detection, prevention and combating of modern slavery.


To analyse the literature relating to modern slavery and synthesise it for paramedic practice.


Following a structured literature review, a comparative analysis was undertaken of articles concerning the relationships between modern slavery and healthcare.


Five major themes were identified: barriers to healthcare access; causes of missing the indicators of trafficking; clinician knowledge; the need for training and education; and trauma-informed practices.


Paramedics are in an optimal position to identify and intervene in cases of modern slavery. The introduction of survivor-centred education is recommended to better understand the barriers to healthcare access.

Modern slavery, which includes human trafficking, is the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of people through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability or deception for the purpose of exploitation (Such et al, 2017). The Global Slavery Index (2018) estimates that 136 000 people in the UK are living in modern slavery and one in eight clinicians comes into contact with a victim (a person still trapped in a modern slavery situation) at least once in their career (NHS England, 2016). Due to the higher prevalence in urban areas, however, this is likely to be a massive underestimation (Home Office, 2017).

Clinicians are in a unique but time-restricted position to help those who are being trafficked as barriers to healthcare means they may only seek help in emergency situations (Price et al, 2019). However, many health professionals are unaware of the issue itself or its magnitude. The limited contact practitioners have with this group means missing the indicators of modern slavery has a greater impact because it may force the victim to return to their exploiter (Ross et al, 2015).

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