Project IIRP15

Building a community of practice to identify strengths, barriers and prioritise solutions to the right of access to healthcare for Travelling Communities

In the UK, Traveller Communities are not able to get the health treatment they need. This makes it difficult for TCs to get the care they need and has a negative impact on their health. Solutions to these barriers need to be identified and understood better to ensure that they can get the best healthcare.


The right to access healthcare for Traveller Communities (TCs) is not currently being met. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the UK noted Gypsies, Roma, Showmen and other Traveller communities continue to “face discrimination in accessing health-care services,”. Recent research shows life expectancy of TCs is 10-12 years less than average. These health inequalities are replicated in discriminations experienced across employment, education and healthcare and considered together, they are deep and persistent patterns of social, cultural, political and economic exclusion.

Improving access to healthcare is the single most effective population intervention for addressing these health inequalities. That these barriers persist, despite the fact that access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, is the problem this project addresses. It will work directly with TCs to identify barriers to accessing healthcare and to identify and prioritise solutions to improve access.

Project Aims

Improving access to healthcare is the single most effective population intervention for addressing these health inequalities. This project will seek to develop a community of practice, working across TCs, health practitioners and regional and national policy makers to identify barriers to accessing healthcare and to propose relevant solutions to overcome those barriers.


  1. To build a Community of Practice (CoP) to identify existing strengths, barriers and to prioritise solutions to accessing healthcare for TCs.
  2. To co-produce policy and practice community-based action plans that enable improved access to healthcare, based on principles of contextualised human rights, advocacy and inclusive involvement.

Project Activity 

  1. Work alongside TCs to co-design approaches to a) identify existing strengths, b) identify and explore barriers and c) prioritise and co-produce solutions, to issues around healthcare access
  2. Assess, from the perspective of healthcare stakeholders, those TCs identified strengths, barriers and solutions to accessing healthcare
  3. To co-produce, through the application of a Community of Practice methodology (comprising TCs and healthcare practitioners) a set of community-based working practices which will ensure the fundamental right of access to healthcare for TCs is met.
  4. These co-produced working practices will inform changes at levels of policy and practice and develop actions plans to tackle ongoing issues of engagement and involvement within TCs communities.
  5. To conduct a peer-assessment about the process of working together and the impact of this on their respective organisations.

Next steps

There are three research stages, over 18 months:

Stage 1: TCs researchers will be trained as interviewers. They will recruit 40 members of their community to take part in research interviews. They will also work with the research team to co-facilitate workshops. These workshops will identify barriers to healthcare access and possible solutions.

Stage 2: TCs will present their conclusions directly to healthcare practitioners. The research will ask health practitioners what they think will work.

Stage 3: A Community of Practice (CoP) will be set up. This will include TCs, healthcare representatives, and researchers. The CoP will develop action plans for the implementation of solutions. It will meet 8 times over 4 months, using team building and group activities. Everyone will need to agree on the best solutions, and what will work best on the ground. They will also work with each other to assess how well they think the CoP has worked.

This project will produce 3 key outputs which will directly improve collaborative working and TC health outcomes. Firstly, working together to identify barriers and solutions for improving healthcare for TCs. Secondly, working together to make action plans to overcome these barriers. This will apply at local, regional and national levels. Thirdly, CoP led self-evaluation of working together. We will work with local, regional and national organisations to publicise the research.

Papers and resources

This project can be viewed in a case study format for easy accessibility

Read the report here

Who is involved?

  • Professor Ewen Speed, University of Essex
  • Sally Burrows, University of Essex
  • Professor Gill Green, University of Essex
  • Dr Koldo Casla, University of Essex
  • Petr Torak, Community Partnership Group (COMPAS)
  • Sherrie Smith, GATE ESSEX
  • Tanya Blumenfeld, GP
  • Shayne Larwood, Cambridge Local Authority
  • Beverly Carpenter, Oblique Arts
  • Shirley Barratt One Voice 4 Travellers

Get in touch

Corresponding researcher

Professor Ewen Speed, University of Essex