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RCOG policy briefing: UN International Day for the Abolition of Slavery and the Modern Slavery Act

News 2 December 2015

Wednesday 2 December 2015 is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The Government has produced support materials for healthcare professionals who may come into contact with potential victims of human trafficking.

This will further support tackling modern slavery with the coming into force of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Information for members

This briefing is aimed at all O&G doctors, midwives and nurses providing care in maternity and sexual health services. Occasionally, cases may appear in gynaecology clinics which will require action.

Modern Slavery deceives, coerces and forces individuals against their will into slavery, servitude, compulsory labour and human trafficking; a life of inhumane treatment. Victims can be brought from overseas but also include vulnerable people in the UK. Female victims of human trafficking are often subject to sexual exploitation and forced labour and many do not present for care in the NHS until they are in the late stages of pregnancy or disease.

All RCOG members should be aware of the physical and psychological signs of human trafficking which include depression, neglect, self-harm, substance misuse and social exclusion.

The Home Office has a website which outlines these indicators.

Read the briefing note and guidance for frontline staff.

The roles and responsibilities of doctors

If you suspect a person in your care is a victim of modern slavery you must act to protect this individual.

In cases of girls under 18 years of age, follow child protection guidelines and speak to the child protection lead in your trust. Many of the young girls would have experience child sexual exploitation.

In cases of women, adult safeguarding guidelines should be followed. Speak to the local safeguarding lead if you are unsure. Referrals should only be made when the patient has provided consent.

It is common for victims to be accompanied by a coercive and controlling adult and healthcare professionals should seek opportunities to speak to individuals alone to enquire about the individual’s welfare. Independent translators will be required if English is not the first language of the child/woman.

For more advice, contact the Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121 700.

The Department of Health has produced a leaflet with information on identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery.

Health Education England have an e-learning resource on modern slavery. Access the e-learning module.


For more information about the RCOG’s policy and public affairs activities, please contact us on or +44 20 7772 6446.