We’re passionate about improving the health of Bristol’s migrant population. Last November, we hired Migrant Health Manager Russell Thomas to head up our Migrant Health Service and lead some changes in the way it operates. A year into his post, we caught up with him to see what’s changed…
How has your role developed over the last year?
“My understanding of our three migrant health services – The Haven, Health Links and the Tuberculosis (TB) Specialist Nurse service – has been enriched by working closely with our fantastic staff in each team, and seeing the feedback we get from patients. We’ve got to the point now where the three teams are working more closely together to streamline healthcare for migrant patients – whether they’ve just arrived in the UK as asylum seekers, or have lived in Bristol for some time but are struggling to understand and use the health system.”
What’s the biggest improvement over the last year?
“The integration of the teams has been a big development over the past year, and there are several opportunities for them to work with each other now. The Health Links team now has four dedicated ‘Health Champions’ who work with individual communities, promoting public health and helping people find the right support – offering things like health checks, diabetes education and TB awareness. Going directly to these communities to offer advice has really helped us to reach people that in the past we’ve struggled to reach.”
What is the main challenge for the Migrant Health service?
“The complexity of our work is increasing all the time, as we see people that need assistance with a huge variety of things such as their mental health, housing support and job centre appointments – to name a few! It can be challenging, but our teams handle it well.”
Name one thing that’s really made you smile
“There have been so many it would be hard to only pick one! Health Links’ Amran’s trip to Somaliland with Dr Katrina Darke earlier this year (featured in Summer 2015 edition) was a brilliant educational opportunity, and offering health checks at the Islamic Cultural Fayre was a highlight for me. However if pushed I’d have to say the Migrant Health staff themselves! I’m immensely proud of how they’ve risen to challenges, how they have managed a lot of change and how they work together as one team.”
Looking back on the year, if you could tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
“I’d tell myself not to get stuck on how I think things‘should be’, and to tap into the imagination and passion of staff at an earlier stage. I’ve been amazed at how aspirational my staff are and how much drive they have to give their time and energy to benefit their communities. They’re an inspiration to me and a real asset to Bristol
Community Health. I look forward to seeing what the next year has in store for us.”
Our Migrant Services at a glance:
TB Specialist Nurse Service – diagnoses and treats people who
have Tuberculosis (TB)
The Haven – provides comprehensive healthcare and advocacy to
refugees and asylum seekers
Health Links – provides expert language support and sign-posting for patients whose first language isn’t English
To learn more about our services, please visit briscomhealth.org.uk/ our-services/