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FFT call for volunteers to mystery shop GP surgeries in England

Today, on 4th November 2021, Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) are calling for volunteers to get involved with a mass mystery shop of GP surgeries in England. In recent years, FFT has exposed that GP surgeries routinely broke NHS guidelines by refusing to register a nomadic Romany or Traveller patient, both before and during the pandemic. We want to do our biggest mystery shop yet and we need your help.

If you would like to register your interest to become a volunteer, please email [email protected] for more information.

The first guiding principle of the NHS is that it provides a comprehensive service, available to all and NHS guidelines say, “When applying to become a patient there is no regulatory requirement to prove identity, address, immigration status or the provision of an NHS number in order to register” and “Delivery of applications for patient registration may be by any means, including post and digital”.

In previous mystery shop research we found that an overwhelming number of GP practices were using policies which unfairly disadvantage Romany, Traveller and nomadic communities. Among the reasons previous mystery shoppers have been refused registration at GP practices include being unable to provide proof of identity, proof of fixed address or unable to register online.

GP practices exercising these policies are failing to comply with NHS England guidelines, and anti-discrimination legislation in the Equality Act.

Romany and Traveller communities are known to face some of the most severe health inequalities and poor life outcomes amongst the United Kingdom population, even when compared with other ethnic minorities and other groups experiencing exclusion. Share your time and help us campaign for a stop to discriminatory registration policies in GP surgeries.

Speaking about the news, Josie Garrett, Health Policy Coordinator at Friends, Families and Travellers said:

“The findings of our last two mystery shop exercises, which were small in scale but highlighted significant levels of discrimination in access to GP surgeries, were deeply concerning. With your help, we will be able to shed light where this is an issue and make sure every GP is accessible to all Gypsies and Travellers.”

On the news, Mattey Mitchell, Health Campaigns Officer at Friends, Families and Travellers said

“Sadly we found that inequalities in access to healthcare have worsened since 2019 and through the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve had enough and we need your help to mystery shop as many GPs in England as we can and finally nail it home, Romany, Traveller and nomadic people are entitled to NHS healthcare too.”

About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)

Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works to end racism and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and to protect the right to pursue a nomadic way of life.

Media Contact

Lucy Hetherington

Tel: 07425 419853             Email: [email protected]

Relevant resources:

Locked Out: 74% of GP refused registration to nomadic patients during Covid-19 pandemic. View here.

No Room at the Inn: How easy is it for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers to access primary care? March 2019. View here.

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