Thelma is a GP in her 70s who has been volunteering with Doctors of the World since 2014, after hearing about our clinic in London from fellow doctors.

Her main task is to assess whether our patients – who include refugees, undocumented migrants and the homeless – require any immediate medical treatment. Alongside this, our clinic support workers and case workers help patients to register with a GP so they have ongoing access to healthcare.

“We spend plenty of time with each person, so we go through their background and their previous experiences. This often reveals other problems that they haven’t yet spoken about, traumas they’ve been through,” Thelma says. She worked as a GP in west London for 20 years before gradually reducing her NHS work to focus on volunteering and teaching.

Thelma also explains to patients that when they go to an NHS GP they will likely only have a short 10-minute appointment, so she helps them think about how to communicate effectively what they need. She often writes a letter for them to take to the GP, which gives a more detailed history than a patient will be able to explain in a short time.

I've been struck by the extent of trauma that people have experience but also their resilience too,” she says. “Working at DOTW breaks down myths and barriers. You’re talking to people, you’re not talking to migrants.

Thelma says volunteering at Doctors of the World hones the core skills that medical professionals need – listening, showing empathy, and diagnosing problems. She has to be on the lookout for problems that patients might not readily disclose, such as experiences of violence and trafficking.