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NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group has been working closely with organisations across the county to ensure everyone in Somerset receives the health and care support they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people have found it difficult to access health and care services during the coronavirus outbreak, particularly during lockdown. However, for travellers, gypsy families and the homeless the risks of contracting Covid-19 have increased due to their nomadic lifestyle and lack of access to the usual sources of support.

Working closely with Somerset County Council, the local district councils and in line with Government guidance, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group has been offering targeted, hands-on support to these groups, tackling health inequalities and many of the obstacles which make these communities difficult to reach.

Partnership working between different agencies in the county has enabled travelling communities to access basic amenities to help improve hygiene and protect them from the virus. These include access to water, sanitation and waste disposal facilities while their usual stopping places have been closed, as well as organising alternative sites where possible.

Lee Reed, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Pandemic PPE Lead Officer, said: “Many gypsies and travellers suffer from poor physical and mental health and have been particularly vulnerable to the impact of the coronavirus. We have been able to advise and support individuals to access health services when they need it, such as obtaining prescriptions when they are far from their usual GP. We’ve also been able to help people access emergency dental and midwifery services when needed.

“We have further been successful in finding accommodation for more than 90 homeless people in Somerset, providing access to food and medical care, and helping to keep them safe. Initially, not everyone sleeping rough wanted to accept the offer of accommodation, but we hope this is a fantastic opportunity to build on our achievements for the future and to continue the partnership working which has been so successful.”

Somerset Gypsy Liaison feels the project it was involved in recently around working with other agencies has made a huge difference to members of the Gypsy-Roma Traveller community as they pass through Somerset.

Edwina Heard, Somerset Gypsy Liaison Officer, said: “Within this project, we have collaborated with local health services, district councils, Avon and Somerset Police and other partners, taking huge steps in working together effectively and forging positive and lasting relationships. We look forward to continuing our work together to make positive differences to people’s lives.”