The Royal College of Nursing has announced that nursing staff across the UK will be sent a pocket guide on Modern slavery that will help spot victims of trafficking and address the lack of awareness training on this subject in the NHS.

The release of the guide, which is designed to fit in the uniform pocket, coincides with a debate on the subject at the RCN Congress in Liverpool. One-fifth of victims admitted coming into contact with the healthcare services during their time in slavery. Despite this, 86% of staff do not feel adequately trained on the subject.

Signs of trafficking, which nurses should be alert to, include a person being accompanied by a controlling individual who insists on speaking for them; vague and inconsistent explanations of where the person lives, works, or goes to school; and the person not being registered with a GP or having official documentation. Health issues nurses should be aware of include, but are not limited to, long-term multiple injuries; mental, physical, and sexual trauma; sexually transmitted infections; and self harm, including attempted suicide. The trafficking concern should not be raised with anyone accompanying the person; instead it should be discussed in private. Nurses should ask only non-judgmental and relevant questions before escalating it to their manager, colleagues, and local safeguarding leads.