HEALTH chiefs have been accused of racism after sending an email to staff advising them to avoid approaching or speaking to Gypsy/Travellers.
Campaigners insisted there was no excuse for the “propagation of racist and discriminatory stereotypes” – and accused the NHS of setting a bad example.
An internal memo sent to staff in August, and obtained by Holyrood magazine, said facilities would be locked over the weekend due to Travellers moving in nearby.
It said: “If you have a car in the car park, please make sure you have moved it by 8pm this evening.
“If approached consider avoiding dialogue with the travelling community members to prevent any possible issues.
“Be vigilant on access and security to the building and site, reporting any breaches immediately.”
Bosses apologised just three hours later following complaints.
A further memo read: “We’d like to apologise for any offence caused by the recent communication that was circulated today, entitled ‘Gyle Square gates will be locked from 8pm this evening’. This was not the intention.”
NHS NSS provides advice and services to the rest of NHS Scotland.
Friends, Families and Travellers – an organisation which seeks to end racism and discrimination against Gypsies, Travellers and Roma – said it was “deeply saddened” to hear about the memo.
Health improvement worker Ivy Manning, a member of the Romany Gypsy community, said: “The NHS is such a trusted organisation. I would trust them with my life – I would go there if I was dying.
“I feel that the memo sets a bad example to the rest of the UK – the fact the NHS is saying this makes it okay for others to say it too.
“Where are they getting this information from? They need to do training. We just want to be treated the same as everyone else – we still bleed the same.”
Traveller advocate Davie Donaldson accused the NHS of propagating “false stereotypes”.
He told Holyrood: “There is no excuse for the propagation of racist and discriminatory stereotypes against any community.”
Scottish Labour‘s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said “Scotland’s Gypsy/Traveller communities face discrimination on a daily basis and this is a very worrying example from NHS officials who should be helping to reduce health inequalities, not exacerbate them.”
A spokeswoman for NHS NSS said it “apologises unreservedly for any offence that has been caused”.
She said bosses were now seeking to “engage” with Travellers to “discuss and enhance our understanding of the issues that they face” – while additional training has also been put in place in the form of “tailored workshops”.
She said: “We recognised that we had made a mistake and immediately tried to retract the message, and issued an apology.
“An email detailing the weekend closure of the gates at our Gyle Square site was issued to all staff on August 31 and made specific mention of the Travelling community.
“We deeply regret the content of that email which did not meet our required standards around equality, diversity and inclusion and is not reflective of our views as an organisation. An apology was issued very quickly and additional training has been put in place.”