Background The UK has experienced significant immigration from Eastern Europe following European Union (EU) expansion in 2004. Lincolnshire is a predominantly rural county in the East Midlands region of the UK with a large Eastern European migrant population requiring healthcare, including urgent ambulance care. The Equality Act 2010 requires public bodies such as health services to provide access to high quality healthcare, while the Equality Delivery System seeks to ensure that NHS organisations comply with the legislation. This study aimed to explore the perceptions and experiences of ambulance staff attending Eastern European migrants in Lincolnshire.
Methods Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 ambulance staff at locations across Lincolnshire. Purposive and maximum variation sampling ensured that participants were knowledgeable about Eastern European migrants’ use of ambulance care and covered a range of demographic characteristics. The data were analysed using framework analysis.
Results Difficulty in accessing professional interpreters meant that some patients relied instead on family members. Some Eastern European migrants brought back foreign language medication, which ambulance staff could not understand. It was common for patients to not be registered with GPs because they were temporarily resident, did not understand how the UK healthcare system worked or preferred to go to their home country for treatment. By not registering with GPs, patients were sometimes transported to the Emergency Department for primary care conditions.
Conclusions The practical recommendations for service delivery improvements may be valuable for service providers and could be incorporated into future protocols. These include: having a glossary of key terms in Eastern European languages; simple packs explaining how and when to use the ambulance service translated into different languages where necessary; encouraging patients to register with GPs; and face-to-face meetings where the ambulance service inform the Eastern European communities about how to use their services.
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