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Homeless issued with cards saying they are entitled to GP care

Healthy London Partnership has launched new cards to make it easier for homeless people to register at local GP practices.

Front of homeless cards

10,000 ‘My right to access healthcare’ cards are being delivered to organisations across London, such as shelters, day centres and drop in centres.

This follows a report from Healthy London Partnership (a partnership between the 32 London CCGs and NHS England) and homeless charity Groundswell, which interviewed over 90 homeless people and found that homeless people find it difficult to register with GP practices, with GP practices not always understanding their needs.

According to Dr Adrian McLachlan, a GP in Lambeth and clinical lead for Healthy London Partnership’s London Homeless Health Programme, the cards ‘highlight that a fixed address or ID is not needed to register with a GP practice.’ The card also has Healthwatch’s number in case the patient continues to have difficulties registering with a GP.

Back of homeless cards

This is not just for people who sleep rough, but homeless people also include those who live in hostels, ‘surf’ sofas or who are ‘chronically insecurely housed’.

Healthy London Partnership is also designing training for receptionists and practice managers to help them support patients who are homeless, detailing the specific needs of these patients. They have also publishing commissioning guidance for CCGs to provide suitable services for homeless patients.

Dr McLachlan said: ‘Being homeless can seriously affect your physical and mental health - the average life expectancy for people who sleep rough on the streets is just 47 years old.

‘In line with previous research, people who are homeless have told us that it can be difficult to register and get treatment at GP practices because they are often asked to provide proof of address and ID.

‘People who are homeless have the same right to healthcare as the general population and we hope the cards will make it easier for them to get the care they need.’

Athol Halle, chief executive of Groundswell, said: ‘We hope that these new rights cards will enable homeless people to access the vital healthcare they are entitled to and so desperately need. The NHS provides amazing services - but needs to be more proactive to ensure the most vulnerable can access healthcare.’

Readers' comments (6)

  • While i sympathize.. there is a real question of what is GMS care and what isnt. Remember GPs are funded £75-80/pt per year on average. We work with a set of medical records - which often makes up for the fact that we have poor access to investigations. while i agree no homeless person should be turned away - they should be seen as a Immediately necessary treatment or possibly a temp resident - lets not pretend that the care they get as one of these is as good as a fully resident pt. there are other classes of pt in a similar situation - locally we have issues with a specialist head injury unit - placed in the community with 20 pts who fit 20 times an hour. almost no secondary care support and a team of carers who think we as GPs should provide their care depiste none of us being an epilepsy specialist. similar - palliative beds in a local nursing home. etc.

    you would imagine - the commissioners of care... would recognize that there was a particular pressure in an area and guess what commission a service that dealt with it. i would suggest if your area has lots of homeless- you have a team look after them - who know what services are available - know their problems, link to SS - dont just dump them on the local GP with a card!

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  • Mr Mephisto

    They way things are going they will be unable to find a GP anywhere in the country by the end of 2017.

    A&E is just about to get a hell of a lot busier once the GP's have all left town.

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  • registered address within my boundary then join. homeless in my city then not join. go to homeless shelter and ccg will provide a Dr through LCS. not a problem

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  • At least they won't need home visits.........

    Agree, we should take them on, equality is essential.

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  • Well, I'm going for "outstanding" on our CQC visit, so I've turned our waiting room into a night shelter, and run a soup kitchen from our dispensary.

    Seriously, I have great sympathy for the homeless. Their needs are best served by a central APMS provider, though.

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  • Might be better to provide accommodation for them? Actually crack down on slum landlords? Tackle poverty?

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