‘If I Get Ill, It’s onto the Plane, and off to Poland.’ Use of Health Care Services by Polish Migrants in London
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This paper explores a range of health care seeking actions adopted by Polish migrants living in London. It is based on the in-depth interviews with 62 Polish migrants who resided in London in 2007 and 2008. The study reflects experiences of a diverse group of participants encompassing individuals of different ages, family circumstances and employment statuses. It uncovered a number of actions such as avoiding contact with any health services, self-medication, utilising Polish private doctors in London, and accessing public health services in Poland and London. These services and strategies were often used successively, concurrently or interchangeably depending on individual’s assessment of their situation and circumstances at the time of experiencing a particular medical need. The research uncovered a prominence of transnational health care seeking practices as most participants continued to access at least some form of health care in Poland. It also noted the impact of the length of stay, knowledge of English and labour market position on patterns of health care use. Engagement with the British National Health Service (NHS) was characterised initially by lack of knowledge of the system resulting in meandering between different institutions. There was also a sense of cultural unease and mismatch of expectations characterising doctor-patient encounters. However, the pathways of access and attitudes towards the NHS began to change as migrants learned their way through the English health care system. This underlines an importance of taking into account a longitudinal dimension in studies of migrant health care seeking behaviour.
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