On first week of July , NHS Berkshire and Bracknell Forest Council joined more than 100 Nepali men and women in Sandhurst as they were commended by the Ambassador of Nepal Dr Suresh Chalise, Campbell Christie, Principal of Bracknell and Wokingham College, Cllr Michael Brossard, Deputy Mayor of Sandhurst Town Council and Dr Philip Lee, MP for their effort in learning English and developing health skills.
NHS Berkshire matchfunded the Swastha Prabhesh project, focussing on supporting women and elderly men from the Nepali community to learn English language and improve their access to health services. Following a successful bid, the European Integration Fund supported the project by funding 75 % of the costs, their highest rate of co-financing in recognition of its innovative nature. NHS Berkshire East is the first PCT to receive such a funding.
While accepting her Health Trainer certificate Himshikha Sujapati emphasised the significance of her new role with an anecdote. “A Nepali lady went to her GP with problems in her hand and the doctor prescribed her some creams for superficial pain. The condition didn’t improve and some days later she explained to us in Nepalese that she is getting pins-and-needles in her hand. We explained her symptoms to the doctor in English and she was diagnosed with a nerve problem and the medication worked this time. It is important to know the language to access any service effectively.”
Assistant Director, Public Health NHS Berkshire East Angela Snowling said, “The interest from the community in learning the language has been tremendous. Many women were homesick, lonely and wary of going out because they didn’t know English. Now they are much more confident and have made friends through the courses they attended. Our team was delighted to hear their stories and how it made a difference to their lives.”
The project has had lots of benefits outside of ESOL training, added Angela Snowling. “Language barrier can be a clinical risk. A member of the community translated breast cancer screening advice in Nepalese and this is now being used nationally.”
Around 150 women completed English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course and 21 Nepalis completed health activist training of which three went on to qualify as NHS Health trainers.
Bracknell forest Council Leader Cllr Paul Bettison said he was immensely impressed by the commitment of the Nepali women to learning English and their confidence in displaying what they have learnt at any age. Some of the women are in their 70s.
MP Dr Lee said the courses will go a long way in ensuring that the Nepali community is integrated into the existing community in Bracknell.
His Excellency Dr Chalise said, “I would like to thank the NHS and Bracknell Forest Council for their initiative in funding and running the project. I commend each and every learner for successfully attempting to learn English. Nepal shares an outstanding relationship with the UK and learning and accepting each other’s culture, values and way of life will ensure that the relationship continues to deepen.”
The project has been running since 2010 in partnership with the Adult Learning Service of Bracknell Forest Council. Language classes take place in Sandhurst and Bracknell on most days of the week throughout term time. Many students were relatives of veterans and serving personnel of the Gurkha regiment at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst where the service is also delivered.
As well as learning English, students also attended Skilledforhealth classes, a programme in health literacy covering topics from healthy eating to accessing health services effectively. In partnership with the local fire service, Fire Awareness was added to this programme.
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