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