Day of Portugal celebration has roots in improving access to healthcare in Stockwell

The Portuguese Well-Being Partnership started as a project to improve access to healthcare for the Portuguese community in south London and evolved into a partnership of organisations.

The Day of Portugal was a celebration of this partnership, the community, and the work to engage and inspire those in the surrounding areas of Stockwell and Lambeth.

The Partnership began in 2015 when Vikesh Sharma, a GP, realised there was a problem with how Portuguese speakers accessed healthcare within Stockwell.

Dr Sharma said: “People were not registering with GPs, not attending follow ups for their chronic diseases, using A&E inappropriately.

Dr Vikesh Sharma (right) at the Day of Portugal

“This was being borne out by emerging data as we started to mine GP systems and found that if you were Portuguese-speaking you could expect worse diabetes and blood pressure control when compared to other cohorts.”

He added: “The emerging insight was telling – mistrust and myth of authority, differences in healthcare systems that caused immense annoyance and of course the pressures of living in urban London – poor housing, concerns about children, isolation.”

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: A day of celebration with an important message at heart

The most important thing was to first build bridges with the community itself. This began with the help of Portuguese national, Dr Cristiano Figueiredo. Together they set about making practical changes.

OLA: Celebrating Portuguese life and culture

The first step was translating leaflets to inform the Portuguese community about the different British health services and how they work in a bid to aid problems such as mental health, isolation and domestic violence.

All GPs in Lambeth can now access Portuguese education leaflets on their computer system. A booklet entitled ‘Welcome to the NHS’ in Portuguese was circulated through churches, cafes and other community venues.

This led to a loose network of different organisations operating in the area under the umbrella of the Portuguese Well-Being Partnership. It has grown and grown with funding coming from Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity Foundation this year.

FUN FOR ALL: Lots to do at the Day of Portugal

The Day of Portugal in many ways embodies the Partnership: people and organisations working together, connecting with other cultures, and improving the lives of those within the wider community.

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