Helping Bulgarians access healthcare

Conor Carleton from Healthwatch Enfield on how local Bulgarians are being helped to access NHS services

The NHS Long Term Plan was launched in January (credit NHS England)
credit NHS England

Edmonton Community Partnership is leading on a project to support the increasing numbers of Bulgarians who have migrated to London in recent years and found a home in Edmonton.

As a result of language barriers and social isolation, there are many families who do not know about available health and care services. The charity’s response has been to hire a Bulgarian support worker to connect with local families from Bulgaria and across Eastern Europe to offer additional support. This has ranged from providing food, home essentials and internet access throughout the coronavirus pandemic, to online community meetings going over the process for securing EU settled status.

Sue-Jane O’Keefe, community engagement officer at Healthwatch Enfield, has been assisting Edmonton Community Partnership with its outreach programme for the local Bulgarian community. She said: “I was shocked to learn that 16,000 people are not registered with a GP in Enfield, which means their only access to medical services is at A&E.

“I met an extremely passionate Bulgarian worker, Nishan Dzhingozyan, who explained that some Eastern European communities can only speak their language, not read it, so printing leaflets is not the way forward.

“Instead, Nishan set up information sessions in school halls, and arranged for notes to go into the children’s school bags. These sessions were well attended, but then lockdown happened. So Turkish and Bulgarian radio stations, Facebook, and other social media streams, alongside telephone calls, were the only way to pass on important health messages.

“Healthwatch Enfield joined Nishan at Edmonton Green Shopping Centre. We were delighted to sign up 18 people to be registered with a local GP – time well spent!”

Some Bulgarians prefer to travel home to get medical treatment, rather than get assistance in the UK, and are not aware of NHS services here they can access. Healthwatch Enfield is working to ensure this community has equal access to health and care, by building on existing communication channels and working at a grassroots level to understand what’s needed.

For more information and to register with a GP practice in Enfield:

For more information about Healthwatch Enfield:
Call 020 8373 6283
Email [email protected]
Text 07526 645 683