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This project sought to improve the health care of non-English speaking patients, and reduce inequality of access to health care within South Warwickshire. It did this by teaching patients health-related English to enable them to ask for health services that they need, without relying on translation services.
Those with limited or no English language skills report using health services inappropriately due to a poor understanding of local primary health care. This often means presentation to overstretched A&E departments.
Five courses were offered in three locations – a Children’s Centre, a Community centre and one client’s home. The locations were in three different parts of South Warwickshire. Each session focused on a relevant situation within health care, such as making an appointment with the GP, attending well baby clinic, and describing physical and mental health symptoms.
A total of 34 clients registered and attended one or more of the sessions. The range of first languages was vast – Spanish, Polish, Latvian, Urdu, Portuguese, Japanese, Thai, French-Arabic, Hindi, Guajarati, with clients from South America, North Africa, Europe, India and the Far East. Each course was of 6-10 weeks duration.
Each session related to a specific aim, e.g. when to use a GP and when to use A&E. During each session there was frequent opportunity to try out the language both in pairs and as a class, with more challenging scenarios given to those with more English language skills.
The sessions run at the children’s centre and community centre offered crèche facilities and support led by children centre staff. Refreshment breaks were well received and the use of English in the break really aided the supportive nature of the group.
The overall feedback from the clients was that the sessions were very helpful, enjoyable, had improved their English language skills and that they had gained in confidence when using health services. Clients expressed their delight at now being able to make appointments at times or on days suitable for them, rather than just accepting the date and time offered and then often not attending.
There was also a significant reduction in A&E attendance.
One of the unforeseen successes of the project was that a number of clients have started attending the children’s centres for other services now that they have met the staff and feel confident with their language. This will have obvious health and social benefits for the children and continue to help reduce the isolation felt by these clients.
The project has also raised awareness of the issue within the area, due to reports, presentations and partnership working with other agencies. Collaborative working has been improved between health visiting and children centre staff.
Personally, I have found the whole experience of this project year extremely positive. The leadership workshops have been inspirational, the meeting up with other project workers in many difference roles and area of care, has been most rewarding and the opportunities that have been afforded to me in terms of conference exposure and other presentation/internal reporting, has been invaluable. My confidence and self belief have grown plus a rejuvenation to work within the health service. I firmly believe that with an organisation such as the QNI in support, there is a real opportunity to try out new and innovative ideas.
The project has shown how much can be achieved with a relatively small expenditure, and the difference this can make to a vulnerable group with our community.