Researchers explore barriers to immunisation in traveller communities

26 May 2016

Researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) aim to develop, implement and evaluate a National Policy Plan to promote uptake of immunisation in traveller communities.

Members of GCU’s Parenting and Family Support Research Group recently completed a two-year study that explored barriers and facilitators to immunisation uptake in traveller communities.

The term traveller refers to distinct and diverse Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities. Current estimates suggest there are around 360,000 travellers in the UK.

The UNITING Study (Understanding Uptake of Immunisations in Travelling and Gypsy Communities) was funded by the National Institute for Health Research's Health Technology Assessment programme and involved Dr Susan Kerr, Dr Carol Emslie and Dr Lana Ireland from the School of Health and Life Sciences at GCU and colleagues from the Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership.

The study was undertaken at four sites across the UK (York, Bristol, London and Glasgow) and interviews were conducted with 174 people from different Traveller communities (i.e. English Gypsies, Irish Travellers, Eastern European Roma, Show people) and 39 service providers ( health visitors, school nurses, GPs).

The findings highlighted general acceptance of immunisation. Views on barriers to uptake differed across the traveller groups. Trusted relationships with health professionals were seen as important and continuity of care valued.

The findings were used to develop a list of suggested interventions, discussed and prioritised in workshops. The suggested interventions include the following:

  • Protected funding for health visitors specialising in traveller health, including immunisation;
  • A named frontline person in GP practices to provide a respectful and supportive service;
  • Flexible and diverse systems for booking appointments, recall and reminders;
  • Identification of travellers in health records to tailor support and monitor uptake;
  • Cultural competence training for health professionals and frontline staff.

The study was undertaken in collaboration with the University of York, the York Travellers Trust, University College London, the University of the West of England, North Bristol NHS Trust, London Gypsy and Traveller Unit, the University of East Anglia, Anglia Ruskin University and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

Dr Susan Kerr said: “In order to meet the specific needs of different traveller populations, we needed to understand what helps and hinders individuals and families when making decisions about the uptake of immunisations. This project has developed several new ideas for programmes to increase the uptake of immunisation generated by travellers themselves.”