Romani flag flies proudly across Oxford Health

This June, Oxford Health is celebrating the traditions of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, encouraging people to share their love of community and family to support one another to access healthcare when they need it.

Romani flag flies proudly across Oxford Health

The Romani flag is flying proudly from Oxford Health’s flagship buildings to celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.

The Romani flag is flying at Trust headquarters at Littlemore Mental Health Centre and The Slade in Oxford plus Whiteleaf Centre in Aylesbury.

The flag consists of a blue and green background, representing the heavens and the earth. It also contains a 16 spoke Dharmachakra or cartwheel which is a homage to the flag of India and the heritage of the Romani people.

Oxford Health colleagues are being invited to celebrate history month at a special online staff event. Colleagues from the Traveller community will share their first-hand experiences to help breakdown misconceptions and overcome barriers which the community face when they access physical and mental health care.

The Trust is working in partnership with the Margaret Clitherow Trust to support colleagues to learn more about meeting the needs of Traveller communities.

“Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people do not always experience the same access and standard of healthcare as people in the settled community, and as a result experience poorer health outcomes as children, adults and older people. Their life expectancy is reduced by 10 to 12 years as a result,” Head of Inclusion at Oxford Health, Mo Patel said.

Oxfordshire school nurse, Jane Saxton said: “I worked in HIV medicine in the 1990s, when discrimination towards patients and staff was commonplace. The importance of community and challenging discrimination is innate to me.

“While growing up, I lived alongside nomadic and settled travellers, socialising at equestrian events. I don’t recognise the negative comments made in the media and public perception. This is not my experience.”

Jane works for the NHS and spends her days caring for children. As someone of Scottish and Irish Traveller heritage, she has experienced first-hand the challenges faced by the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community when seeking healthcare from a local GP. Her physical health was directly affected.

She said: “When I relocated to Oxford 2019, I was denied GP care and told I had insufficient paperwork to register at several practices, despite needing health care at that immediate time. Eventually, I sought care in A&E. The care they provided was a sticking plaster. It was not the appropriate place for me to be. While I am now registered with a GP practice who has a proactive policy of registering patients, the unnecessary delays I experienced did have a negative impact on my physical health.”

Such systemic discrimination is why Jane’s great grandmother hid her Traveller ancestry when she married into a settled family. It also makes it harder for poorly or vulnerable people to reach out to healthcare professionals for help with they need it.

Jane said: “The message I would like to share with everyone is, ‘Please see the Person first.’”

If you are worried about your mental or physical health, of that of a loved one, you can support them to access Oxford Health services in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Swindon, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset.

Speak with a GP. How to register with a GP

Self-refer to Talking Therapies in Oxfordshire or Buckinghamshire.

Contact your local Mental Health Helpline via NHS 111, Option 2.

Call into your local Oxfordshire Keystone Mental Health & Wellbeing Hub.

There is also information on the Margaret Clitherow Trust website to support GPs

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Published: 25 June 2024