Fact Sheet Fact Sheet

Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 outlaws several forms of extreme exploitation. Here are some basic facts for primary care

Contributed by

  • Liz Such, University of Sheffield
Last updated

on 15.08.2019

  1. Modern slavery encompasses human trafficking, slavery, forced labour and domestic servitude
  2. Some migrant patients may be at high risk of exploitation
  3. Primary care practitioners can help identify and support potential victims

Modern slavery is the recruitment of a person through the use of force, deception or coercion for the purpose of exploitation. It can take many forms, such as:

  • Forced labour
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Trafficking
  • Domestic servitude
  • Forced criminality (e.g. forced benefit fraud, drug dealing)

The UK Home Office estimated there were up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013. It is likely there are many more victims. It is hard to measure because it is a hidden crime.

Victims may to come into contact with health services during exploitation. Primary care is a likely point of contact, along with emergency and maternity services. Spotting the signs of modern slavery can be difficult. Our links and 'how to' guide will help.

Health issues may include:

  • long-term multiple injuries
  • mental, physical and sexual trauma
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • pregnant, or a late booking (over 24 weeks)
  • disordered eating or poor nutrition
  • self harm, including attempted suicide
  • dental pain
  • fatigue
  • non-specific post-traumatic stress disorder
  • psychiatric and psychological distress
  • vague symptoms such as back or stomach pain, skin problems, headaches and dizzy spells (RCN 2017)

Modern slavery is a safeguarding issue. Trust your professional instinct that something is not right. If you have concerns about a young person or a child, take immediate action.

If in doubt call the Modern Slavery Helpline, a UK-wide, 24 hour service that you can call for confidential advice. Call 08000 121 700

For bespoke training on how to address modern slavery in a healthcare setting, take a look at VITA Training (link below).