Reducing health inequalities to help everyone stay well

Lucia Gaborva collects fruit and vegetables from the drop-in

Roma families were helped to stay well and access vital healthcare at a health drop-in piloted in Cliftonville, Margate.

It was open to everyone in the local community and was aimed at families with children under five,  attracting many Roma people due to the large local population.

When language is a barrier, getting help and support to stay healthy isn’t easy. People new to an area, might not know where to go, or what healthcare is available to them and their families. This was at the heart of Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust Health (KCHFT) Visitor Jemma Scott’s drive to set up the health drop-in, which was opened at the Quarterdeck Youth Centre, at the end of last year (2022),

By going door-to-door to speak with families, Jemma found there were many people not accessing local services.

She said: “I’d been knocking on doors and speaking with families, to see what was needed in the local area. In Cliftonville, there is a large Roma community and I found many people were not accessing local healthcare services, with some not registered with a dentist of GP. There was an obvious language barrier to them accessing healthcare and I was finding there were common health issues which were not being addressed.

“These included children and adults not having vaccines, difficulties in getting GP appointments, sexual health issues and having hospital appointments, but not attending as letters had been sent to them in English, which they could not read. We found people with diabetes, women’s health and sexual health issues.”

Leaflets advertising the drop-ins were sent out in English, Bulgarian and Slovak and interpreters were on hand at the monthly sessions also. To encourage people along, bags of free fruit and vegetables were given out at each session. Colleagues from Margate and Mocketts Wood Primary Care Network (PCN), which runs four surgeries in the surrounding area, joined the event to provide health checks, to help people register with a GP and to book appointments. About 25 people went along each time, where they were able to chat about being healthier.

Jemma said: “The drop-in was very successful. We gave advice on eating healthier, exercising and living a healthier lifestyle. People were also helped with dental and hospital appointments and letters, and to self-manage health conditions, where possible.”

At a Christmas session in December, chocolate advent calendars and mince pies were handed out, along with free Lego kits, donated by the company. There were festive games, a stay-and-play area and a stand run by Windmill Community Gardens, encouraging people to get involved with their allotment project and to eat more fresh food.

Lorna Young, manager of Margate and Mocketts Wood PCN, said: “We have a large Eastern European community in this area and we are always keen to take part in events where we take healthcare out to people, rather than expecting them to come to us, when this might not be easy.

“We’re trying to break down the barriers. We’re picking up lots of issues and long-term conditions, which are not be being managed.

“If people need to see a doctor, we go back to the surgery and try to get them an appointment. We know a lot of people struggle to get appointments with GPs. Imagine having the added barrier of not speaking the language. We are not pushing people to the front of the queue, but we are just trying to make sure there is a level playing field.”

Jemma was successful in a funding bid for £2,000, from the Save the Children’s Margate Early Learning Community Fund, to run the drop-in, until February 2023.

When older children went along to the drop-in with their families, they were given help and support to find places at local schools.

Jemma has been working with KCHFT quality improvement (QI) advisor Jo Healey on the project.

Pictured, top of story, is Lucia Gaborva who collected fruit and vegetables from the drop-in with her family in December.

Pictured below, Jemma and the KCHFT team.

For more on the project, see Jemma’s Roma community flash of brilliance as pictured below.