The Health Vans at the first Seafit event in Cromer, Norfolk
Dr Bola Owolabi, NHS Director of Health Inequalities, learned about challenges to accessing healthcare for fishermen at the first Seafit event of 2022
Fishermen and their families in the town of Cromer, Norfolk received access to free healthcare as part of the first SeaFit event of 2022, which also welcomed a visit from Dr Bola Owolabi, NHS Director Of Health Inequalities. The resumption of in-person events comes at a time when the fishing community has been particularly affected financially, and from a health and wellbeing perspective by the continued uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic.
NHS Director Of Health Inequalities, Bola Owolabi said: “It was great to see the brilliant work of the Seafit programme first hand, and see how the initiative is positively helping the coastal community it serves. I was impressed by some of the programme’s adaptations to provide care in such extraordinary circumstances, and through the Core20PLUS5 approach, NHS England aims to support many coastal communities, and deliver on our commitment to reduce inequalities across England.”
The nature of commercial fishing, which is dependent on the weather, tides, and fish locations, makes it very difficult for fishermen to make and keep pre-booked health appointments. After all, if these individuals are not at sea, they are not earning a living. Furthermore, as fishermen are traditionally expected to be strong and resilient, they are less likely to seek medical support.
The Seafit programme, which was set up in 2018 by the Fishermen’s Mission and the Seafarers Hospital Society, grants fishermen and their families easy access to healthcare services via quayside events that cater to both, booked appointments and walk-in visits. These events are often run in conjunction with local health services and charities.
Fishermen attending the Cromer Seafit event were given access to dental checks via the mobile dental unit of the Dentaid Charity, Hepatitis C checks conducted by the Eastern Liver Network and mental health support through information chats with a Fishwell Mental Health Counsellor.
The event also provided an opportunity for the NHS’ Dr Owolabi to talk with individuals from the fishing community about the difficulties they face in accessing health services. SeaFit Programme Manager, Carol Elliott said ‘We were delighted to welcome Bola and her team to see the types of services we take to the fisherfolk. Each health event is different, and we rely on local services giving up their time to support fishing communities’.
Sandra Welch, CEO Seafarers Hospital Society said ‘We were delighted to see so many members of the fishing community take the opportunity to attend the event, some travelling up to an hour by road to access dental treatment. This clearly demonstrates the importance of this programme and its range of services.’
The Cromer event was well attended and sets a precedent for upcoming Seafit events to be held in Ramsgate Fish Quay (10.00 am to 4.00pm on 22nd and 23rd March) and at Shoreham Port (10.00am to 4.00pm on 10th November). Fishermen in Scotland can also book to attend a 40-minute online training course (2.00pm on 11th February) in the use of Naloxone, which is a drug that can reverse the effects of opioids in case of overdoses.
Fishermen or family members needing health and wellbeing support can find out more https://www.fishermensmission.org.uk/seafit-programme/