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Discrimination in access to health services for Gypsies and Travellers

This advice applies to England

Health providers, like GP’s and hospitals, mustn’t discriminate against you because you’re a Gypsy or a Traveller. If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination, you may be able to do something about it.

Read this page to find out more about discrimination when you access health services if you’re a Gypsy or a Traveller.

Have you been discriminated against?

The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. This means you can take action in the civil courts.

If you think you've been discriminated against when using health services, you should check whether the discrimination is unlawful.

You can follow these steps to check whether unlawful discrimination has taken place:

  • why you are being treated unfairly - unfair treatment only counts as unlawful discrimination if it's for certain reasons
  • who is treating you unfairly - unfair treatment only counts as unlawful discrimination if it's carried out by certain people
  • what kind of behaviour has taken place - only certain types of unfair treatment count as unlawful discrimination
  • how is the treatment unfair - you need to identify what kind of discrimination the unfair treatment could be.

Why are you being treated unfairly?

If you’re treated unfairly because of your race, it’s unlawful discrimination. Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are protected against race discrimination.

Who is treating you unfairly?

All healthcare providers have a duty not to discriminate against you. This includes medical staff, such as consultants, doctors and nurses. It also includes non-medical staff, like receptionists.

Examples of unlawful discrimination

You've experienced rude or hostile behaviour

If someone is rude or hostile to you because you’re a Gypsy or a Traveller, this could be unlawful discrimination. This type of behaviour is called harassment under the Equality Act. If you're harassed because you're a Gypsy or a Traveller, it's harassment related to race.


You have an appointment at the hospital. In the waiting room, you hear some of the hospital nurses make offensive comments about the fact that you’re a Traveller. You feel humiliated and distressed by this. This is harassment related to race.


You’ve come to see the health visitor with your baby. When you ask the receptionist where to go, she’s very rude to you and says ‘you might just as well leave as we don’t want people like you here’. This is also harassment related to race.

A GP surgery says you can’t register as a patient

You should be able to register with a GP of your choice and can only be refused on reasonable grounds - for example, if you live outside of the GP’s area or the surgery is full. If you're staying somewhere in the UK for less than three months or have no permanent address, you can register on a temporary basis.

If a GP surgery says you can’t register as a patient, this is direct discrimination under the Equality Act, if it’s because you're a Gypsy or a Traveller. Direct discrimination is where you're treated differently and worse than someone else because of a protected characteristic, here it's race.


Your local GP surgery refuses to register you because you live on a nearby Local Authority site. This is direct discrimination because of your race.


Your local GP surgery refuses to register you because they say the surgery is full. However, they’re currently advertising that they’re taking on new patients. This is also direct race discrimination, if you’re in fact being refused because you’re a Gypsy or Traveller.

A GP surgery says you can't register because you can't provide proof of address

If you can’t register because your surgery requires all new patients to provide proof of address and you don’t have this, it could be indirect discrimination because of race.

You've been refused a home visit

If a doctor, health visitor or other health professional refuses to come and visit you at home, when they would do this for other patients in the area, it could be direct discrimination.


You’ve just given birth. Normally, the midwife would come and visit you at home for a postnatal check-up, but she refuses to do so because you live on a Traveller site. This is direct race discrimination and is unlawful.

Taking action

If you’ve been discriminated against you can take action under the Equality Act. You can make a complaint or you can make a discrimination claim in court.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

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