Coronavirus (COVID-19) supporting Gypsy/Travellers: framework for local authorities

This framework, created jointly with COSLA, is for local authorities and partners supporting Gypsy/Traveller communities whilst Scotland transitions to living with COVID-19. This framework replaces all previous versions.

3. Health Information and Services

Local Authority officers will have a crucial role in ensuring that Gypsy/Travellers can receive accessible and up to date public health information when they are supporting site residents and roadside encampments.

3.1 Public Health Information

NHS Inform provides the most up to date information about COVID-19, including information on when and how to get a test, self-isolation, contact tracing and vaccination, protecting yourself from infection and long Covid.

In particular, the communications toolkit at

Includes advice for different situations and alternative formats such as easy read, audio, and videos on how to carry out tests.

The Gypsy/Traveller Scotland: Public Information Service Facebook Page includes some materials developed for Gypsy/Travellers and videos recorded by community members

In addition, the Scottish Government publishes any COVID 19 guidance at. Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance - ( This includes sections on looking after yourself and others, testing, self-isolation and housing.

3.2 Public Health work with Gypsy/Travellers –

The Scottish Government and COSLA worked collaboratively with the Scottish Public Health Network, Public Health Scotland and the Third Sector to develop a Gypsy/Traveller communications plan to provide up to date information and address the issues identified below. Work has been undertaken to overcome digital exclusion, working with the Scottish Governments Digital Participation Team to improve digital access, and also work with service providers, particularly NHS and Local Authorities, to ensure their messages are accessible to those unable to access information digitally. We aim to:

  • Work with Article 12 to build on the communications work done through the Gypsy/Traveller Scotland Facebook page and other channels, provide up to date public health messages (physical distancing when back at work, hand washing, face masks etc.), communicated in a way that meets the needs of the community;
  • Ensure that there is an ongoing high awareness of symptoms in the Gypsy/Traveller community so that they can take action quickly if needed. This could include advice on what to do and who to contact if there is an outbreak on a camp;
  • Communicate arrangements for Test and Protect, i.e. how to access testing and what to expect in terms of contact tracing and isolation as a result of contact with an infected person. This includes 3,000 leaflets specifically for Gypsy/Travellers, distributed to families locally along with information packs on Test and Protect.
  • Build on assertive outreach vaccination pilots which have been successful in providing COVID-19 vaccinations to those living on camps, see example in section 6; and
  • Support Gypsy/Travellers to register with local GP practices, either as permanent or temporary patients, and to communicate key messages about getting the right care in the right place at the right time.

3.3 People at highest clinical risk from COVID-19

There is information for people at higher risk from coronavirus at Local Authority resilience partnership leads and leads for those at highest risk have copies of all the relevant information and advice issued by the Chief Medical Officer and Scottish Government. Support can also be accessed through the National Assistance Helpline on 0800 111 4000 which directs callers to their local authority.

For further advice on what information to provide, please contact

3.4 Mental Health Support

A proposal has been agreed to fund a new project, Mental Health Matters, which will support young people in the Gypsy/Traveller community who we know are at greater risk of developing poor mental health. This will ensure that individuals can access the right information, advice and signposting on mental health and wellbeing. This work is being taken forward by third sector organisation MECOPP. MECOPP also established a telephone support service during Covid for community members experiencing either stress, anxiety or low mood, having difficulties in relationships or problems coping with isolation. Details can be found on their website here:

3.5 Hospital and Health Appointments

The NHS Inform website provides advice on common symptoms, guidance for self-help and where to go if further medical care is needed. For minor illness local community pharmacies should be the first stop. Local community pharmacies can provide advice and treatment for minor illnesses like colds, cold sores, sore throats diarrhoea or constipation, indigestion, and aches and pains through the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service. No appointment is usually needed and individuals can go to any community pharmacy.

Individuals can contact their local GP practice during the day for an appointment or over-the-phone advice. Outside of GP opening hours, anyone with a health issue should call 111 if they are too ill to wait for their GP practice to open. The public are also asked to call 111 day or night for worsening symptoms of COVID-19 or if they think they need A&E but it is not life threatening.

Those with appointments with healthcare services including hospital out-patients, health visiting and midwifery should have been contacted by their care provider to discuss and arrange support required and future appointments. It is important that GPs and other health and social care services are kept updated about any changes to people's contact details so that they can be informed about re-arranged healthcare appointments. Everyone has the right to register with a GP in Scotland, for help and support please see:

Hospital visiting - The latest guidance on hospital visiting can be found here:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): hospital visiting guidance - (

Dental Treatment - Each person in the family should stick to their own toothbrush and these should be stored apart to prevent infection. It is now possible to access a wider range of NHS dental services. Further information is available here:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Accessing dental services | NHS inform

Community healthcare services - including Optometry(Opticians) Information on services and any changes to them due to the pandemic is available here:

3.6 What to do if someone dies

A Gypsy/Traveller death is mourned by the whole community. It is traditional for families to dress and care for the deceased and this continues in some families today. If someone dies from COVID-19 on a site or in a camp, the Local Authority should tell the family about the steps that they should take to keep themselves safe if they decide to care for their loved one. The Scottish Government's Covid-19 guidance on staying safe and protecting others includes a section on funeral services and life events, which you may find helpful.

Additionally, guidance published by the UK Government may be useful:

Since there is a small but real risk of transmission from the body of the deceased, any preparations of the deceased should be subject to appropriate mitigations (e.g. the use of PPE) and infection prevention and control procedures. The advice is that mourners should not take part in any rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body of an individual who has died from, or with symptoms of, coronavirus (COVID-19) for the duration of the pandemic.

Given the very significant risk for vulnerable and extremely vulnerable people who come into contact with the virus, it is strongly advised that they have no contact with the body. This includes washing, preparing or dressing the body.

If approached to assist the family, a funeral director should seek to safely fulfil their requests. However, subject to an appropriate risk assessment, and if it is the view of the funeral director that these requests cannot be safely fulfilled, then a sensitive discussion will need to take place with the family. We understand how important funeral services are to those who are grieving, and recognise how important it is to have the support of loved ones.



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