Following success in London, NHS England and homelessness charity, Groundswell, will be distributing ‘My Right To Health Care’ cards, which explain that people experiencing homelessness have the right to register with GP surgeries, across the country.
According to NHS England, people who experience homelessness are 60 times more likely to visit A&E in a year compared with the general population.
This is largely due to the difficulty they have in registering at a GP surgery, with people often wrongly turned away due to lack of proof of address or identification.
To help address this, Groundswell and the London Homeless Health Programme (LHHP) have produced ‘My Right to Healthcare’ cards which explain that people experiencing homelessness have the right to register with GP surgeries without ID, proof of address or confirmed immigration status.
So far, Groundswell has distributed 75,000 cards through homelessness organisations across London, with another 20,000 going out this winter. The success of the scheme will also see it rolled out nationally by NHS England in 2020.
Sir David Sloman, regional director for London’s NHS, said: ‘We know that seven out of 10 homeless people experience a physical health problem and 80% experience mental health problems. The cold weather can also cause serious complications for those who are already unwell.
‘No one’s health should suffer because of who they are or where they live and everyone should have equal access to healthcare. Initiatives like this will help us on the path to making London the healthiest city in the world.’
Groundswell’s chief executive Steven Platts said he is confident the cards can create change on a national scale:
‘Groundswell is determined to work with partners across the health and homelessness sectors, as well as those representing other marginalised communities, to ensure equal access to healthcare for all.
‘We are pleased that NHS England is committed to the national roll-out of these cards and promote better training for all GP staff because everyone has the right to healthcare.’
The original version of the cards was trialled in 2017. A survey of health professionals and charity staff saw that 92% of those asked, found the cards “very useful” in helping people to register. Over nine out of ten respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the cards “increase awareness of the rules around registering with a GP”.
Now, Groundswell is asking services, organisations and charities that work with people experiencing homelessness in London to distribute the cards. Those wishing to help should email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
- Your name
- Organisation name, postal address
- Type of service you provide
- The number of cards you would like posted to you
Organisations based outside London that would like to distribute cards when they launch in 2020, should email NHS England at email@example.com.
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