UK medical education on human trafficking: assessing uptake of the opportunity to shape awareness, safeguarding and referral in the curriculum.
BACKGROUND: Human trafficking is a serious violation of human rights, with numerous consequences for health and wellbeing. Recent law and policy reforms mean that clinicians now hold a crucial role in national strategies. 2015 research, however, indicates a serious shortfall in knowledge and confidence among healthcare professionals in the UK, leading potentially to failures in safeguarding and appropriate referral. Medical education is a central point for trafficking training. We ascertain the extent of such training in UK Medical Schools, and current curricular design. METHOD: We sent Freedom of Information requests to the 34 public UK medical schools, which included a preliminary question on education provision, supplemented with follow-up questions exploring the nature, delivery and format of any education, as well as future curriculum development. RESULTS: There was a response rate of 97%. A majority (72%) of the schools did not provide trafficking education. 13% of these did, however, offer opportunities outside the formal curriculum. 70% had no plans to implement any education opportunities. Among the 28% of schools providing teaching, 56% integrated this within the core curriculum. 56% only delivered this within a single year of the degree. 67% provided some form of teaching in-person, while 78% used a combination of methods. CONCLUSION: Medical education on trafficking in the UK is variable and often absent. To produce future clinicians who are competent and capable, there is a need for expanded education on trafficking and research into optimal curriculum design. The UK's new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner should work with medical schools to develop an educational strategy urgently to fulfil the UK Government's plans and commitments. Both in the UK and around the world, human trafficking education presents a critical opportunity to address human rights and safeguarding to a generation of new doctors.