A GYPSY’S personal story of facing difficulties with the NHS will give Bradford’s clinical leaders food for thought at a meeting next week.

Gypsies have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group and also have the worst health record in society.

Valerie Elliott, 39, will tell NHS Bradford Districts Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body meeting tomorrow of her mixed experiences of accessing local health services over the years.

Mrs Elliott was born in a trailer on the roadside in Bradford and chose to move to housing in her early 20s. She now lives in Tyersal with her husband and children, but she feels being part of a minority community has had a big effect on how health and education services have treated her.

“I think lots of GPs don’t want to see members of our community as they think they won’t see treatments through, that they’ll move on – part of that is about trust and lack of mutual communication,” she said.

“Literacy is an issue which means appointment letters can be missed or put to one side, and there are even problems with Royal Mail not delivering to Gypsy and Traveller sites’ individual pitches.”

With an estimated 1,200 to 3,000 people from Gypsy and Traveller communities in Bradford, the CCG wants to look at ways of improving engagement with these communities to make sure that they know how to access the healthcare services they need to stay well.

Helen Speight, chairman of Bradford’s Gypsy and Traveller Working Group, said the communities have the worst health outcomes of any ethnic group and are more likely to die earlier than the rest of the population.

“They are more likely to have a long-term illness, have higher anxiety, depression, suicide and maternal death rates and are 20 times more likely than other communities to experience the death of a child,” she added.

“But with better engagement and understanding of their culture we can improve outcomes for local people and their families, and reduce costs for the health service.”

Bradford Districts CCG’s governing body is holding its meeting in public at The Gateway Centre, 45 Thackeray Road, Bradford, on tomorrow at 1.30pm.