Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association

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Special Interest Group for Travellers : The National Association of Health Workers with Travellers




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Who are Gypsies and Travellers?

  • The Gypsy/Traveller community in the UK is mainly composed of English and Welsh Romanichal or Romany Gypsies and Irish and Scottish Travellers and some other Travelling groups e.g. European Romanichals or Roma.
  • It is thought there are 90-120,000 nomadic Travellers but many more people of Traveller ancestry live in housing.It is impossible to be accurate about figures as their numbers are not recorded accurately in census records.
  • The Gypsy/Traveller community have always seen themselves as a separate ethnic group. The Commission for Racial Equality in their published guidance uses the following criteria:
  • This definition comes from Mandla v Lee (1983) a case brought under the 1976 Race Relations Act.
  • Gypsy/Travellers are not defined by Travelling around or living in caravans but by their ethnicity which is ascribed at birth. However despite being legally protected as an ethnic minority Gypsy/Travellers are probably the most socially excluded group in society.

Travellers and Health

Until recently there have only been small scale studies and the experience of health care providers to indicate the poorer health status and raised morbidity and mortality of Traveller Gypsies when compared with every other group in British society.

Limited epidemiological evidence to confirm this was provided by the 1997-9 Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths. See CPHVA Opportunities Vol 75,No 11. Mid Nov 2002

However 2004 has seen the completion of a Department of Health Inequalities in Health Research Initiative Report 121/7500 entitled " Health of Gypsies and Travellers in England" by Parry g, Van Cleemput P, Peters J et al.

A brief resume of the study follows :

A team from ScHARR, University of Sheffield, carried out this important national research into the health of Gypsy Travellers. SIG for Gypsy Travellers member and health visitor, Patrice Van Cleemput was member of the multi disciplinary ScHARR team, led by Professor Glenys Parry. Other SIG members, specialist Health Visitors in the study locations, were key people involved in supporting this study at a local level.
Importantly Gypsy Travellers have been fully involved in the study from its inception and continue to be involved in the dissemination.
The study findings are shocking. There is marked health inequality between the Gypsy Traveller population studied compared to non -Gypsy counterparts from other socially deprived or excluded groups and compared with other ethnic minorities.
Reported health problems were between twice and five times more prevalent with chest pain, respiratory problems and arthritis especially more common.
There was also an excessively high rate of miscarriages, stillbirths and premature deaths of children.
Higher rates of anxiety and depression were also shown, and the Gypsy Travellers saw this poor mental health as being a result of the many difficulties faced, with accommodation being the most frequent and fundamental difficulty discussed.
Despite the greater health need there was also a lower use of health services. Widespread communication difficulties were encountered between health workers and Gypsy Travellers. Other barriers to access were also experienced, including a refusal from some GP practices to register them.

Specific implications for policy and health provision are mentioned in the report and these include methods needed to improve access to health services.

The report conference launch, held in October 2004 in London, Gypsies and Travellers, health professionals and others working with Gypsies and Travellers came together, and in twelve different workshops with health related themes arising from the study, discussed the findings and practical ways to improve Gypsy Traveller health. A report summarising these findings is available from the secretary of NAHWT at the address at the end of this web site.
This report is available at : ttp://


The Association was established in 1992 to reduce the isolation of health workers with Travellers and to support their work.

Membership is open to anyone who supports their aims, although full membership is limited to direct providers of health care. The network has progressed to play an important role in facilitating good practice and provide a system of continuity of health care for Gypsy/ Traveller families as they travel.

Membership is open to anyone who supports their aims, although full membership is limited to direct providers of health care. The network has progressed to play an important role in facilitating good practice and provide a system of continuity of health care for Gypsy/ Traveller families as they travel.


  • To promote and improve the health of all Gypsy/Travellers Ė settled or mobile
  • To improve the access of Gypsy/Travellers to mainstream medical services
  • To support and reduce the isolation of health workers with Gypsy/Travellers
  • To seek recognition of Gypsies and Travellers as an ethnic minority and for health care to be provided in a framework of equality and non discrimination
  • To provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge, information and resources
  • To act as a national voice to highlight the impact of legislation and local policies on the health and welfare of Gypsy/Traveller communities

NAHWT offers you

  • 4 national meetings a year
  • Comprehensive resources list
  • List of national contacts of those working with Travellers
  • Mailing support of events, conferences and publication

Recent Activities:

We have joined with Traveller/Gypsies and others in the GTLRC (Gypsy and Traveller Law Reform Coalition). Lobbying by the GTLRC has resulted in a recommendation in the draft housing bill that the statutory duty on local authorities to make or facilitate sites be reinstated.

  • We have highlighted the high maternal death rate among Traveller/Gypsies and are contributing to Maternity Alliance led research on this.

  • We have worked with the Menís Health Forum to produce a leaflet aimed at encouraging Traveller/Gypsy men to take an active interest in their health. The leaflet is called On the Road to Better Health and was launched in August 2003. We encourage members to contribute to site provision issues locally and offer support in this.

  • NAHWT as part of the GTLRC has been involved in a review of accomodation and planning issues affecting Gypsy Travellers initiated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. NAHWT has helped to highlight how the health of Gypsy Travellers is affected by accomodation and planning difficulties.

  • This review is likely to have some impact on several pieces of legislation at present being considered by the Government and the House of Commons.

Membership Details

Contact for a membership form.

Membership is £15 per annum and cheques should be made payable to NAHWT.

Members will receive an information pack containing background information about Traveller/Gypsies in the UK, the laws that affect them and other agencies that work with them. Members will also receive details of the research projects that we are supporting and a membership list. Members are then able to network and gain support from each other.

Expenses for attendance at meetings can be claimed from the CPHVA/MSF for members of those organisations only. Expense forms must contain receipts and be signed by the Treasurer.

Useful Links

University of Sheffield- The Health Status of Gypsies & Travellers in England, 2004

Travellers Law Reform Coalition

Friends, Families and Travellers

Other Organisations
The National Gypsy Council

Irish Traveller Information

The Irish Traveller Movement,Banderway House

156-162 Kilburn High Road,London NW6 4JD

Tel. 020 7625 2255




Janine Adkins
CHD Travellers
Clwydian House
University of Wales
College of Medicine
Technology Park
Tel: 01978 352880

Kingsthorpe Housing office
Harborough Road, Kingsthorpe
Northampton, NN2 7BB
Tel:01604 837231


Travellers Health Project
Balsall Heath Health Centre,
43 Edward Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham,
B12 9LB
Tel. 0121 446 2300


Related Information

New report highlights health inequalities in Roma communities, Public Health News, 14 February 2005.

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