Human trafficking and exploitation: guidance for health workers

Advice how to recognise and help victims of human trafficking and exploitation.

Who is this guide for?

Trafficking in human beings is a global problem which evidence suggests is growing in scale and has required both national and international responses. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy[1] published by the Scottish Government in 2017 supports the fulfilment of Scotland's obligations under the EU Directive on preventing and combatting trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The provision of healthcare to victims, or possible victims, of trafficking is one of these obligations. As such, a key Action Area within the Scottish Government's Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy is to identify victims and support them to safety and recovery.

The health consequences for those subjected to trafficking can be profound and enduring given its association with physical and psychological harm. This guide provides practical information on the health needs of trafficked people and outlines the role of the health worker in identifying and responding appropriately to these needs.

As a health worker you are in a unique position to respond to victims of trafficking. You are not expected to be an expert or to provide everything a patient needs, but you can play a crucial part in improving the immediate and long-term health impact on all those affected.

This guide covers a range of situations into which people may have been trafficked. A further range of practice guides for health staff on gender-based violence containing more detailed information on working with victims of sexual violence and abuse can be accessed at

This guidance does not include victims of child trafficking. Separate guidance exists on responding to children who have been trafficked. Please refer to 'Inter-Agency Guidance for Child Trafficking'[2] available at



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