NHS in Doncaster explores why Gypsy and Traveller communities have a shorter life expectancy

20 February 2019
NHS in Doncaster explores why Gypsy and Traveller communities have a shorter life expectancy

NHS Doncaster’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is listening to the views of local Gypsy and Traveller communities.

There are an estimated 4,000 - 6,000 Gypsies living in the Doncaster area and life expectancy for this group is likely to be at least 20 years lower than other communities.

NHS Doncaster CCG has partnered with Co:Create and community journalists to listen to Gypsies and Traveller communities to understand how their health needs can be better met.

Dr David Crichton, Chair of NHS Doncaster CCG said that involving Doncaster's Gypsies and Travellers in the project was important.

“Engagement is at the heart of what we do and to do this effectively we listen to people and hear their views,” said Dr Crichton.

“Involving members of the Gypsy and Traveller community in this project as Community Journalists will hopefully help to develop new skills and confidence. We are looking forward to taking the film made by the Community Journalists to our Engagement and Experience Committee later this year and sharing the findings.”


Community journalists are reaching out to members of the Gypsy and Traveller community to make short films to highlight what the problems are and how these communities can improve their health and well-being.

This innovative project stems from joint working between Co:Create; a Sheffield-based health-funded group of co-production and engagement specialists along with the NHS Doncaster CCG, community journalists, Justine Gaubert and Violet Cannon. Joint working began in June 2017, when both organisations attended a training event in Leeds to look at working with marginalized communities

Violet Cannon (r) community journalist and researcher for health project. Pictured with Debbi White at Lee Gap Fair
Violet Cannon (r) community journalist and researcher for health project. Pictured with Debbi White at Lee Gap Fair

Violet Cannon, who is also the Romany Gypsy CEO of York Traveller Trust, was hopeful that the project would bring about positive change

"I was delighted to have been given the opportunity to work on this project," said Violet Cannon.

"Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group are taking the much needed steps to ensure our voices are heard in a real and meaningful way. I am very excited to see where these views lead. We have an agreement that they will feed directly into the CCG framework, and that feels like a great achievement in itself."

Brendan Warner-Southwell, Programme Co-ordinator at Co:Create said that one of the key aims of the project was to listen to Doncaster Gypsies and Travellers and try to understand why on average their lives are 20 years shorter than the wider population.

“This has been a very rewarding project and has involved real co-design between members of the Gypsy and Traveller community, the NHS and Co:Create," Bernard Warner-Southwell.

"We are working with the CCG to look for a way to make a positive impact on the health and well-being of the Gypsy and Traveller community. In order to do this we need to understand why they live on average, more than 20 years less than people from other communities in this country.”

Both organisations attended a ‘Gypsy Life’ training day in Retford and Lee Gap Horse Fair in September to find out about the barriers faced by members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities along with looking into the difficulties they face in relation to their health and well-being.

Engagement at Lee Gap produced essential research for the project which informed the brief for the Community Journalist Project, taking the findings to the next stage. Following the successful recruitment of three community journalists at Lee Gap, the group has been meeting to take forward the project, looking at making a film in the coming months.

The training sessions not only focused on journalism skills and how to collect data, interviewing techniques for different media platforms and how to ask the right questions.

Over recent weeks the community journalists have been asking Gypsies and Travellers across Doncaster the following co-designed questions:

1.       What stops you from accessing healthcare? 

2.       What would you not be comfortable talking to a healthcare professional about? 

3.       What do you think is the biggest healthcare issue for Gypsies and Travellers? 

4.       What would make healthcare services better for you? 

5.       What do you think the settled community can learn from the GT community? 

The outcomes of this important work will also feed into the first ever joint health and care commissioning strategy for Doncaster. You can read all about the strategy here

If you are a member of the Gypsy and Traveller Community in Doncaster you can give your answers and feedback to the questions here.

For further information please contact:

Brendan Warner-Southwell
Programme Coordinator - Co:Create
LiveWell - Co:Create B.WarnerSouthwell@syha.co.uk

South Yorkshire Housing Association Limited Telephone: 07393014949  www.wearecocreate.com 

Rachael Mather
Communications and Engagement Manager, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Rachael.Mather@nhs.net

Sovereign House, Ten Pound Walk, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN4 5HZ Tel: 01302 566350