More effort should be made to help Polish people living in Brighton and Hove understand how they can use the NHS, according to an official watchdog.
The Brighton and Hove Local Involvement Network (LINk) flagged up high rates of smoking and suicide among Poles compared with Britons.
In a report the LINk said: “The Polish community makes an important economic and cultural contribution to Brighton and Hove.
“Our healthcare system needs to do much more to take their particular needs into consideration.”
The LINk said: “Average life expectancy in Poland is four years shorter than in the UK with a high prevalence for smoking and an alarmingly high suicide rate.”
It said that it was concerned that Poles living in Brighton and Hove might be equally at risk, especially if they had problems accessing healthcare.
Because of this, the LINk carried out a study into what the Polish community thought of the British healthcare system and how they might use the NHS more readily.
The LINk said: “Interestingly, the study found that many of the 120 Polish people interviewed had problems understanding the NHS system because it functions very differently to the healthcare system in their homeland.
“Many were not registered with a GP and many didn’t know they could register with an NHS dentist.
“Language was found to be one of the biggest barriers for Polish people accessing healthcare even though NHS Brighton and Hove provides spoken language interpreters for NHS appointments and can supply written translations of publications on request.”
The LINk recommended that more information, such as that on the Brighton and Hove City Council and NHS trust websites, should also be available in Polish.
It said that these sources must be well publicised.
Given the high prevalence of smoking in the Polish community, the LINk also recommended that “more information on smoking cessation is promoted in the Polish language and within Polish community venues”.
It added: “Male suicide in Poland is more than double that in the UK and settling in a foreign city with high chances of social isolation, poverty and racism can compound the issue.”
The LINk urged the council and NHS Brighton and Hove to ensure that Poles were made aware of the mental health services available and encouraged to make use of them.
It said that it did not know how many Poles lived in Brighton and Hove but one estimate – five years ago – put the number at more than 1,500.
Nationally, the significant migration that began with Polish membership of the European Union in 2004, continued until at least 2008 so the number may be even higher today.
Some Poles have, though, returned home since the credit crunch in 2008.
Brighton and Hove is also home to many Polish settlers from during and after the Second World War, a number of whom fought alongside British servicemen in the conflict.
Three hundred people attend the Polish language mass at St Mary Magdalen Church in Upper North Street, Brighton.
The LINk liaised with Father Tadeusz Bialas, a Polish priest at St Mary Magadalen, during its research.
To read the report, click here.
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