‘Despite the fact that it’s not NHS policy, many GP practices were asking for proof of address’: new film reinforces people’s right to register with a GP

Groundswell launches film promoting the rights people experiencing homelessness have when accessing healthcare, as prize for winning the ‘Communicating for Change’ excellence award.

In July, Groundswell attended the Homeless Link Excellence Awards, where they won a ‘communicating for change’ for their ‘my right to healthcare’ cards. The award celebrates the impact communications can have to engage, change behaviour and improve lives.

In the film, Richard explains his struggles in registering with his local GP following a period of homelessness:

“It was a struggle to get the local Dr to accept me ‘cos I didn’t have ID, until Dennis [one of the Groundswell Case Worker’s] helped me. He showed the card [the ‘my right to healthcare’ cards] saying that I didn’t need ID and he got me into the practice”.

The cards were created in partnership with Healthy London Partnership, in response to the revelation that one of the key barriers people who are homeless face to getting healthcare is registering and making use of a GP practice. In the short film, Martin Burrows, Groundswell’s Director of Research & Campaigns explains the healthcare cards:

“An initiative that tries to support people who are homeless to be able to register with GP practices. Despite the face that it’s not NHS policy, many GP practices were asking for proof of address, proof of identification, before they would allow people to register with a GP practice”

To date over 65,000 cards have been distributed across London, with interest from areas nationwide. Chief Executive Steven Platts is confident these cards can create change on a national scale:

“Groundswell are 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 to be working closely with NHS England to encourage the national roll out of these cards and promote better training for all GP staff, because everyone has the right to healthcare.”