As new research reveals people experiencing homelessness human rights are being challenged by being turned away from GP surgeries, cards promoting homeless people’s ‘right to healthcare’ win Excellence Award for using communications to change behaviours and improve lives.
Yesterday (2.07.19) research launched in the British Journal of General Practice revealed the extend of health problems amongst people experiencing homelessness. They found that homeless people in England are 60 times more likely to visit A&E in a year than the general population. Dr Vibhu Paudyal cited that access to GP surgeries for homeless people was a key difficulty, suggesting limited access to preventative primary care via a GP, a fundamental human right, could be contributing to the dramatic use of A&E.
Despite the clear responsibility for GP’s, the registration of homeless people without a fixed address, identification or status in the UK remains a problem. In 2016 peer-led research ‘More than a Statistic’, delivered by Groundswell and the Healthy London Partnership revealed that one of the key barriers people who are homeless face to getting healthcare is registering and making use of a GP practice.
“When you try to register with a doctor and they send you away because you are homeless you just end up stuck… Some of us have got mental health problems, some physical health problems and a lot of the time it might be those problems that have landed us in homelessness to begin with. When these problems aren’t going to get looked at because you don’t have an address then we are just going to be in a vicious cycle.” – Research Participant
In response Groundswell and the Healthy London Partnership produced ‘My Right to Healthcare’ cards . These are small plastic credit card style cards emphasising that when registering with a GP:
You do not need a fixed address.
You do not need identification.
Your immigration status does not matter.
The cards are distributed to hostels, night shelters, day centres and foodbanks who hand them out to people experiencing homelessness. To date Groundswell, along with partners in the homelessness and housing sector, have distributed over 65,000 cards across London.
Last night, at the Homeless Link Excellence Awards, Groundswell won an award under ‘communicating for change’ for the healthcare cards. The award celebrates the impact communications can have to engage, change behaviour and improve lives. Homeless Link tweeted:
“A brilliant idea to help people who are homeless access the healthcare they deserve.”
Nevertheless, the research, using health data from the West Midlands, shows that homeless health inequalities are still rife. The difficulties people face in accessing healthcare, along with a higher dependence on alcohol and substances, are contributing to the harsh reality that homeless people are dying 40 years earlier than the general population.
Groundswell have been working with NHS England to carry out consultations with people experiencing homelessness across the country. The NHS are looking to adapt the cards based and roll them out nationally, ensuring more people can register with the GP encouraging early intervention into health concerns. This runs parallel to Groundswell’s #HealthNow partnership with Crisis and Shelter, promoting an inclusive health system where everyone has access to the health care they need.
If you are from a press team and would like to find out more information please contact Becky Evans, Development Manager, Groundswell on: [email protected] or via the Groundswell office on: 020 7725 2851.
If you work within homelessness and/or health and are interested in tackling homeless health inequalities please contact Rachel Brennan, #HealthNow Network Coordinator on: [email protected].
L-R: Becky Evans (Development Manager, Groundswell), Matt Harrison (Trustee, Groundswell and Director of business and social enterprise, Homeless Link) and Jenny McAteer (#HealthNow Director, Groundswell) collect the award at the Excellence Awards Ceremony.