Irish ex-pats ‘not recognised by NHS’

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Health workers in Britain “don’t bother” to understand Irish patients, who suffer higher levels of long-term illness, death rates from terminal diseases and mental ill-health, the Irish Parliament has heard.

A parliamentary watchdog was told very poor health among Irish expatriates and their children is not recognised because the community is lumped in with the overall white population in official figures.

Dr Mary Tilki, chairwoman of the organisation Irish In Britain, said many who remain cut off after years of discrimination are suffering further from a lack of cultural understanding afforded to other minorities.

“There is increasing recognition that people from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan have cultural needs but the Irish tend to be forgotten,” she told Dublin’s Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children.

“This can make for a very lonely and frightening experience in hospital, a care home or in end of life care.

“Staff can’t or don’t bother to understand their accents, pronounce Irish names, have little knowledge of their culture and often make stereotypical assumptions about them.”

While many Irish people are successful in Britain, analysis of the most recent census records shows “very poor health” among the community compared to the overall population.

Research found:

• Irish people have among the highest levels of limiting long-term illness and self-reported poor health in England;

• Irish Travellers have the highest self-reported poor health in the country and are second highest for long-term sickness;

• High levels of death rates among Irish from coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke;

• The Irish have the highest death rate from cancer in the population.