Martin Burrows, Project Manager at Groundswell, explains why registration with GP practices is a big problem for homeless people in London
Helping people who are homeless access GP practices
We have produced ‘My right to access healthcare’ cards to help people who are homeless to register and receive treatment at GP practices in London.
People who are homeless have told us that strict access requirements – such as being asked to provide proof of address and ID - are a key barrier to them accessing primary health care in GP practices.
The plastic cards are designed to be carried by people who are homeless across London, including people who sleep rough, live in hostels, sleep on family and friend's sofas, or who are chronically insecurely housed.
They can be used to remind GP receptionists and other practice staff of the national patient registration guidance from NHS England. This states that:
people do not need a fixed address or identification to register or access treatment at GP practices
where necessary, the practice may use the practice's address to register the patient if they wish.
10,000 cards will be delivered to shelters, day centres, drop in centres and other organisations across London from Friday 16 December.
Flyers have also been produced with bigger letters and format for people with eye sight problems.
An online training course for GP receptionists and practice managers in London will also be launched early next year. The online training will cover the specific issues faced by patients who are homeless; best practice in supporting and treating them and service access rights and engagement. The training will be promoted widely to GP practices in London.
Life expectancy for people who sleep rough on the streets is almost half that of the general population. They often have complex co-morbidities, and are much less likely to be registered with a GP and much more likely to use A&E services.
A PDF of the cards can be found at the bottom of this page.
Guidance about the cards for organisations working with people who are homeless can also be found at the bottom of this page.
Organisations may wish to produce the 'My rights to access healthcare' cards themselves. Print versions for the card and flyer are below for this purpose.
For more information about the cards, which have been produced in partnership with Healthwatch London and homeless charity Groundswell, please email email@example.com