Lack of understanding of Roma community impacts health care in Bedfordshire report finds

There are multiple barriers facing the Roma community when accessing healthcare
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Translation services, better communication and an understanding of how to access health and care services could break down barriers and improve the health of Roma people, according to a report by the Luton Roma Trust and the University of Bedfordshire.

Commissioned by NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board as part of the Denny Review into health inequalities, the study was undertaken over 12 months and included interviews and focus groups with Roma people.

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The report highlighted that there are multiple barriers facing Roma people in accessing health and care services, including language and communications, knowledge of how the health system works, and limited digital literacy.

The report aims to improve outcomes for the Roma community - stock pictureThe report aims to improve outcomes for the Roma community - stock picture
The report aims to improve outcomes for the Roma community - stock picture

A lack of understanding of Roma people in health settings, perceived discrimination and a mistrust of authorities have combined to leave a gap in provision, leading many Roma people to return to their home countries to access health services, contributing to delays in treatment and in many cases, worse health outcomes than other minority groups.

A member of the Roma community said: “If communication was better between me and the doctors, 99% of my problems would be solved.”

Another added: “There is no one to help inform people about health services in a way that I understand. I come here to a foreign country, I don’t know the language and I don’t know where to go, who to go to for more information about what I need.”

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Crina Morteanu from the Luton Roma Trust said: "This report is evidence of the difficulties that the Roma in Luton face in both the access to and the quality of the medical care provided under the NHS. It also shows the incapacity of the NHS system to provide for one of the most disadvantaged minority groups in the UK, the Roma. We are grateful to Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board and the University of Bedfordshire for being our partners in this project and will continue working together towards a fairer society for all.”

Professor Nasreen Ali from the University of Bedfordshire said: “The findings from our research provide an action framework for BLMK ICB decision makers to put into place inclusive prevention and health promotion interventions that acknowledge and address the barriers affecting the Roma community when accessing healthcare.”

Reverend Lloyd Denny said: “The Denny review was a collaborative effort in that it drew on the expertise of partners across the system. This piece of work builds on the partnership which bodes well for the future in terms of engagement and implementation.”

Felicity Cox, Chief Executive of Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board said: “We have one of the largest populations of Roma people in Europe here in Luton and we really must ensure that we take steps to make health and care services accessible for everyone.

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“In our response to the Denny Review, we are looking at solutions including the development of a system wide translation service, which will make getting help so much easier for people who do not have English as a first language. I welcome the opportunity to work with the Luton Roma Trust so that we can build trust, and break down barriers, helping Roma people to live longer, healthier lives.”

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