22 Jul 2019 - by A4ID Team

Pro bono legal support for a new online tool helps Doctors of the World UK improve primary healthcare for migrants and refugees

A4ID has supported Doctors of the World UK to access legal assistance to ensure the necessary documentation is in place for their new online platform designed to help doctors provide vulnerable patients with the specialist care they require.

Launching an online platform or just creating a website for your organisation? Mitigate your risks by developing a Terms of Use to address privacy issues, protect your intellectual property and limit your liability.

Doctors of the World UK

Doctors of the World UK (DOTW) is a charity registered in England and Wales, providing medical care to vulnerable populations. In the UK, DOTW runs a volunteer-led clinic and advocacy programme to help the most vulnerable members of the community to access the healthcare they need.

DOTW recently launched an online tool for General Practitioners to better support migrant patients through the UK’s National Health Service. Refugees and migrants often need specific medical care as many have experienced trauma, domestic violence or human trafficking. Known as Migrant.Health, the tool was to serve as an information resource to be used before, during and after seeing migrant patients. Additionally, it incorporates an online forum to facilitate discussion between medical professionals, thereby creating a community of practice and a means for peer-to-peer learning.

To ensure the online tool was successful in improving the experience of migrants in primary care, DOTW wanted to ensure that it had appropriate documentation in place, and that the website provided necessary information about the user experience, for the tool to serve as a safe forum for professionals to use, ask and answer questions.


Legal Advice and Assistance

A4ID brought its Legal Partner, Milbank LLP (Milbank), to assist and advise DOTW on the following issues:

1. Drafting online Terms of Use for the website. One key purpose of these Terms was to protect DOTW from potential liability issues associated with the website’s online discussion forum; these were addressed through a package of provisions as follows.

  • Acceptable use – Milbank worked with DOTW and Sheffield to construct a set of ‘House Rules’ for users to follow when interacting with the website. These were included in the Terms and placed clear restrictions on uploading content that is defamatory, offensive or infringes others’ intellectual property rights.
  • Licence of user content – Milbank drafted into the Terms a licence for DOTW to use individuals’ copyright in the content they upload, to enable its distribution on the discussion forum.
  • Contractual remedies – Milbank incorporated in the Terms a set of actions available to DOTW in the event a user breaches the ‘House Rules’ (e.g. removal of offending material), to limit harm caused to others and prevent re-occurrence. Provisions were also included to limit DOTW’s liability for such breaches, such as clauses enabling DOTW to bring a claim against the relevant user for loss or damage incurred in respect of uploaded content.

2. Drafting a Privacy and Cookies Policy to inform individuals how DOTW processes their personal data when they visit and use the website, as mandated by applicable privacy laws. This required a synthesis of factual, technical and legal knowledge: Milbank worked closely with all those involved to itemise all relevant data flows, ensure each of these had a legal basis as prescribed in the relevant legislation, and describe them clearly and comprehensively in the policy document.

DOTW described the lawyers as highly competent, and the quality of the advice provided was extremely high. The Milbank team were always available to provide additional assistance as and when it was needed and took the time to explain everything clearly, leaving ‘no doubts or confusions over any aspects of their assistance or of the advice provided’.

Above all, the lawyers were ‘kind, friendly and very professional’ in their provision of legal advice and the impression that they were ‘dedicated to and interested in the project’ was very encouraging and appreciated.


Outcomes and Impact

DOTW’s online tool, launched shortly after the receipt of the above legal advice, has been a useful resource for GPs and other primary healthcare professionals particularly new volunteer health workers in its migrant clinics. It has improved the experience of vulnerable patients, in this case new migrants and refugees, in accessing primary care, for example, by increasing attention to hidden issues such as domestic violence and providing more holistic care.

The legal advice gave DOTW more confidence in using its online tool, with the assurance it is now better protected from potential liability in terms of intellectual property, data privacy and other relevant issues.


Milbank’s lawyers played a significant role in its support of DOTW and this project markedly advanced the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular SDG 3 (good health and well-being). SDG 3 is extremely explicit on the work undertaken by DOTW and Milbank. Target 3.1, in particular, requires the attainment of ‘universal health coverage’ which includes ‘access to quality essential health-care services’ defined as the ‘average coverage of essential services … that include reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and service capacity and access, among the general and the most disadvantaged population’. The impact of this project was magnified by the number of cross-cutting goals that were furthered, chief among them being SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).

With its focus on one of the most vulnerable populations in the community, this project embraces a key theme given the highest priority in the SDGs of ‘leaving no one behind’ in the quest for human development.