Understanding the needs of the Polish community


17 / 04 / 2009

Strategic Health Authority

NHS East Midlands (East Midlands SHA)

The organisation

NHS Lincolnshire (Lincolnshire Teaching PCT) is one of the largest PCTs in the country. The PCT is responsible for the whole of Lincolnshire covering an area of 2,350 square miles, with a total registered population of 735,107 and 102 GP practices.

The ethnicity profile of the PCT, as of January 2008, is 86.7 per cent white British, 4.5 per cent black and minority ethnic and 8.8% undisclosed.  Of its BME staff, the largest proportion (39.4%) is ‘white other’, in line with the Lincolnshire population, which has new residents from European countries.

What we did and why

In 2001, the largest ethnic community in Boston, Lincolnshire, comprised 161 Chinese people. Today, more than 15,000 people are from overseas and it is estimated that:

  • 30 per cent of Boston’s newcomers are Polish - and 10 per cent of Lincolnshire's population is estimated to be Polish
  • 28 per cent Portuguese
  • 18 per cent  Lithuanian
  • 10 per cent Latvian

The trust wanted to make its staff aware of how to engage with the new migrant communities, to understand their service needs. It also wanted to develop direct dialogue with these communities, or organisations representing them, to focus on the 'real life' issues.

An equality impact assessment revealed that communication difficulties between staff and service users were being heightened due to language issues. The trust initially considered developing an e-learning package but found the proposal too inflexible. Instead the trust approached a local college to develop a ‘train the trainer’ package, to help raise staff awareness of Polish service users.

How we did it

The trust recruited a Polish student from the local college to help develop an awareness training package, who in turn, involved respected individuals or groups from the Polish community in the work.

The trust developed two-hour cultural awareness taster sessions for staff that aimed to:

  • raise awareness of the role of culture in professional and social relationships, why culture is important and what impact it has
  • identify perceptions of self ie. Polish and of others (British nationals) and the challenges of cultural differences in general
  • learn about the general expectations of patients, colleagues and managers, their values and their preferred communication styles.

The sessions also involved topics on:

  • expectations of Polish communities
  • communication etiquette; effective communication across cultures, typical style and potential challenges
  • communication content including greetings and conversation activity; medical idioms; clothes; food and drink; body and health.

The results and next steps

  • The trust believes these taster sessions have developed cross-cultural competencies and improved communication skills to help interaction with service users from the Polish community  
  • Engaging migrant workers in planning the design of the sessions, and using community groups to run the sessions, made the process even more productive
  • Further develop the ‘train the trainer’ sessions involving volunteers from the Polish community
  • Extend the training to cover religious communities eg. Islamic, Chinese and Portuguese communities
  • Integrate this approach with the Knowledge Skills Framework (KSF).

Contact details

Karen Austin, equality and diversity manager, NHS Lincolnshire
telephone  07909 966108 or email: karen.austin@lpct.nhs.uk

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