Members of the traveller community in Banstead have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine following a joint initiative.

NHS Sutton recently joined forces with Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP), Cognus and Sutton Council, to help increase vaccination uptake within the traveller community in the borough.

The joint team liaised with the traveller community on the Pastures site in Banstead and arranged an on-site information session about the vaccine.

The vaccine was offered to anyone who was eligible on-site who wanted it and community members were able to ask questions.

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Travellers received reassurances from Dr Ellie Barnard, GP Partner at The Manor Practice in Wallington.

The partners confirmed that during a follow up visit to the Pastures, 22 travellers received the Covid-19 vaccination.

Speaking about the visit, Dr Ellie Barnard said: “Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic – an effective vaccine is the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with other local services to deliver vaccines to travellers in Sutton. It was a wonderful opportunity to build links into our community.

"We were made to feel very welcome by the traveller community and have already started seeing the broader benefits of direct engagement as they are starting to reach out to us for more support with their health in general."

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Dr Imran Choudhury, Director of Public Health at Sutton Council said: “This project is a great example of how we can work together to ensure the safety of everyone living in Sutton.

"More than 57,000 Sutton residents have already had their vaccine and we are making good progress, but it is important to ensure that everyone has access to the protection that the vaccines provide.

"The vaccine will play a key role in protecting our communities and ensuring our path out of lockdown. We look forward to building on these successes, as we continue the rollout of the vaccination program."

The Pastures site has been home to the local traveller community for more than 40 years and houses 15 plots.

Sutton Housing Partnership manages and maintains the site, carries out weekly health and safety visits and is the main point of contact for repairs or plot maintenance issues.

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Steve Tucker, Managing Director of Sutton Housing Partnership said: “Our Housing Managers regularly play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between residents and local health and council services.

"We know that some groups of residents are wary of engaging with official channels, or may face other barriers to engaging, so I’m really pleased that we were able to build up a high level of trust with the traveller community and facilitate this event in order to get more people vaccinated and reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

Helen Gasparelli, Head of Inclusion, Cognus commented: “This is a perfect demonstration of the importance of effective partnership working, and how together, we can make a collective difference to our community.

"Our Traveller Education Team have excellent relationships with the traveller community both in Sutton and Merton, and were delighted to be able to contribute to, and support this joint initiative.”