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Since the birth of the NHS in 1948, healthcare in the UK has been free for all. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how health care may not always be available to everyone in the same way. As Charlotte explains,

“Everyone, including Roma and travelers, wants good health for themselves and their families. But with a life expectancy gap of 28 years from the rest of the population 1, access to health care is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

“Being a Roma community and in my job, I understand that building positive relationships takes time. To improve life expectancy, health and well-being, it is important that health services engage the community, improve access to services and knowledge of self-care.”

Liz adds that studies show that Roma and travelers have less health than the general population, with nearly two in five suffering from a long-term illness. To facilitate the management of these conditions, it is best to contact health care professionals as soon as possible. There are many ways you can do this.

Learn about your services

Your NHS is here to help – whether it’s for a new or long-term concern, you can get help from:

  • Local pharmacy for advice on minor illnesses, symptoms or current prescriptions
  • A local GP for advice and treatment for a range of current and general health problems provided by a variety of healthcare professionals
  • Urgent treatment center to help with minor cuts, sprains, strains and burns
  • 999 or your local Accident and Emergency (A&E) department for serious or life-threatening situations.
  • Visit 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you have a medical emergency and are not sure what to do.
  • The NHS app for your phone or tablet allows you to get a COVID Card for travel, access some of your health records and access some online services

Getting help from the right service will ensure that a skilled professional sees you faster who can help manage any health concerns and get you to the treatment you need.

Wherever possible, it is best to contact a GP for persistent and general health problems. Everyone is entitled to register at a GP clinic for free, even if you do not have proof of address, immigration status, ID or NHS number. If you are in a different area, or you are not registered in another, you can approach a local clinic.

“It is the responsibility of all practices to register people who have a temporary local address or care address or who report residing on land within the boundaries of the practice,” adds Lise.

NHS services are also available in the community, for example in a pop-up tent, medical truck or bus. Everyone is invited to access NHS care provided in this way, including people who do not have a GP. Charlotte adds,

“We are always open to the services that come in to work with us. We offer immunization clinics, health checks and checkups in our building and on sites in partnership with services and health champions from the community. People can access care in a safe place, and the sessions are really well attended.”

Top tips for taking care of yourself during the winter

Seek help early for any worrisome symptoms

If you notice that something is not looking right or you are concerned about changes in your body, please get it checked out by a GP. The cough may have lasted more than three weeks, blood in the urine or stools, a lump or changes in breast tissue, a change in a mole or persistent ulcers.

“Detecting problems early can help you get the right treatment sooner. If you have symptoms that you cannot explain or worry about, please contact your GP, pharmacist or health professional,” says Liz, “in most cases there is nothing to worry about and you can rest assured.” , but if it’s serious, it’s really important to find out as soon as possible.”

Get a free NHS health check

Each year about 10,000 lives are saved as more than 15 million people are invited to be tested. From birth until the age of twilight, we offer different types of examinations at certain stages of our lives, which also include during pregnancy.

The exam can identify health risks and signs of illness that you may not be able to see or feel. It helps prevent diseases such as cancer or detect and treat conditions early. The following types of screening are available, if you:

  • You may be offered screening at certain times and once the baby is born, to improve their health and prevent disabilities.
  • They are between 25 and 64 years old and have been invited for a Pap smear but have not yet been disclosed, we encourage you to do so. Looks for risks to which cancer can develop and, with treatment, can prevent cervical cancer.
  • 60 to 74 years old bowel cancer test kit was sent home, please take the time to return it. It looks for blood in your stool that you may not be able to see a sign of bowel cancer. Bowel cancer screening test kits are also being rolled out to 56- and 58-year-olds as part of plans to expand the offer to all people over 50.
  • If you are 50 to 70 years old and invited for a breast exam, we encourage you to book your appointment, to ensure that any cancers are detected early.
  • When you are 65 years of age, you will be called to apply for an examination of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which can be very serious and life-threatening.
  • If you are over 12 years old with diabetes, you are invited to have an eye exam.

To find out more about screening, talk to your doctor or visit www.nhs.uk.

Keep your family up to date on routine vaccinations

Vaccinations protect us and our families from potentially life-changing diseases, for the rest of our lives. There are vaccinations to protect babies from eight weeks of age, as well as preschool vaccinations such as the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. School vaccinations include HPV (to protect against cervical cancer) and extra doses of vaccines given to younger children.

“If your child has not had routine immunizations, or if you are home schooling any child, speak to your GP, or someone in your local area, to arrange which ones your child is entitled to. Homeschooled children and children should be invited who are not enrolled in regular education to be vaccinated by the school’s aged immunization service. If you do not hear back from them, please inquire with your local authority education department for more information.” Liz says.

To check if your child is aware of his or her immunizations, you can look in the “Red Book” (which shows the history of immunizations) or contact your GP. Even as an adult, if you think you’ve missed some vaccinations, it’s never too late to ask.

Learn more about NHS vaccinations at www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations.

Get extra protection during the winter

With the onset of winter, flu and COVID boosters are again available free on the NHS for older adults, pregnant women and others at greater risk from these viruses, for example because they have certain health conditions. Getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 is especially important as the colder months approach because this is the time when these viruses are most common.

It’s never too late to apply for an early dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting all the doses you need gives you and your loved ones the best protection from serious illness and recovery. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any animal products and has been approved by religious leaders including the Catholic and Evangelical churches.

To book your COVID-19 vaccine, visit http://www.nhs.uk/get-vaccination or call 119 for free. To find out more about the flu vaccine and who is eligible, visit www.nhs.uk/flujab.

If in doubt – check

If you’re in doubt about what you need, Liz thinks it’s best to ask. She says, “It helps to know which checkups and immunizations you are entitled to, so that you can talk to your GP about them. Staff will be happy to offer check-ups or arrange any immunizations you may have missed. No one will judge you, and will be happy to answer your questions so you can of making informed decisions.


1Baker, M, (2005) Leeds Baseline Census 2004–2005 Gypsies and Travelers. Leeds: Leeds Council for Racial Equality. https://observatory.leeds.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/GTR-HNA-post-consultation-June-2019.pdf

2Progress Report of the Ministerial Working Group on Addressing Inequality of Roma and Travelers https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6287/2124046.pdf

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