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Better care needed for local Gypsies, Romany and Travellers


Our Health Matters cover photoYesterday more than 30 people came together to talk about making health and social care work better for local Gypsies and Travellers. It included people from the Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities, as well as local health and social care decision makers. 

At this event we launched "Our Health Matters", a summary of what local Gypsies, Romany and Travellers have told us about their health needs. They make up the largest ethnic minority communities in Cambridgeshire; however, they are more likely to have poor health than other local people.

This project was led by Dr Kate D’Arcy, one of our Outreach volunteers. Kate works at the University of Bedfordshire and has experience of work and research with Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities.

Kate went out with Terri-Lee and Rose, who work for the Traveller Health Team at Cambridgeshire County Council. They talked to 15 local Gypsies, Romany and Travellers about their health. Most of the people we talked to had complex medical needs, and have experienced a range of different health issues. 

Many of the issues described were very practical, relating to booking appointments or collecting medication. We also heard about information not being given in a way it could be understood, for example health staff using medical terminology.

Specialist support from the Traveller Health Team worked well, however it was often the only way people were able to arrange external support. People often didn't know about services that could help them.  

We also heard from Shaynie Larwood-Smith, Lead Nurse for Gypsy Traveller Health. She talked about some of the health inequalities of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. We heard that:

  • Life expectancy for Gypsies and Travellers is at least 10 to 12 years less than the general population.
  • 42% of English Gypsies are affected by one or more long term health conditions, as opposed to 18% of the general population.
  • One in five Gypsy Traveller mothers will experience the loss of a child, compared to one in a hundred of the general population.
  • Gypsy or Irish Travellers are amongst the highest providers of unpaid care. 
  • Gypsies and Travellers are over twice as likely to be depressed, than the general population.

We asked local health and care decision makers to tell us what they can do to improve services for local people. We asked them to pledge to to do something under each of the following headings:

  1. Key point of contact. Having a named person within their organisation who can help make care work better for Gypsies and Travellers. 
  2. Recording ethnicity. Accurately recording Gypsy and Traveller use of local health and care services. Gypsy and Travellers are not in the NHS data dictionary as an ethnic group, so their use of local health services is not accurately recorded. This makes it very hard to understand how care is working for them, or help improve it.
  3. Accessible information. Improving how their organsiation communicates with Gypsies and Travellers by providing information in a format that individuals can use.
  4. Culture change. Tackling any negative attitudes towards Gypsies and Travellers within their organsiations.

We will report back on the result of this work at our AGM on Wednesday 13th July, 19:00 - 21:00 at Swavesey Memorial Hall, High Street, Swavesey, CB24 4QU. Put this date in your diary and make sure you come along.


Our Health Matters summary

Our Health Matters - report by Kate D'Arcy