Li* knows it can be hard for people with happy and stable lives to relate to her situation. She knows women with “nice boyfriends” and “nice families” might struggle to imagine how hard it has been for her to see a doctor.

Li is in her twenties and fled to the UK in 2012, because she faced persecution at home in China for being a Christian. She paid a trafficker to get her out of China but when she arrived in the UK she spent over a year locked in a house and forced to work for her traffickers, who ran a business producing illegal DVDs. She was later freed and moved in with a boyfriend.

When Li came to our clinic in London last summer, she was almost five months pregnant but hadn’t seen a doctor at all. Li had had to move out of her boyfriend’s home after they split up and was staying with different friends every couple of months. As a result, she’d been wrongly turned away from her local GP surgery because she couldn’t provide paperwork to prove her address.

“My situation was pretty terrible - it was stressful to keep moving while pregnant,” says Li. “All the surgeries would ask for ID and proof of address. Some of the staff didn’t have the patience to listen to me.”

Everyone in the UK has the right to see a GP for free. No ID, address or immigration documents are needed.

We helped Li register with a GP, explaining her rights to surgery staff and putting in follow-up calls until she was registered. She uses that GP to this day. We also helped Li arrange ante-natal hospital appointments. She gave birth to a healthy son last year (pictured) and she’s found a solicitor to help her apply for asylum.

However, Li was billed just over £5000 for her NHS hospital care before she had even given birth. "When you're a single mum and you see a bill like that, you just panic," she says. She wants to pay the bills but does not have the means to do so.

We’ve put Li in touch with a charity that provides legal advice on such bills, including how to pay in installments. Meanwhile, her solicitor has applied for her to get a place in state-run accommodation for asylum seekers.

“I was having a lot of trouble – but thankfully Doctors of the World gave me a lot of help,” Li says of her experiences over the last year. “I want to say many, many thanks.”

*Name has been changed to protect our patient's identity

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