Groundswell joins forces with NHS to help people who are homeless to get vital healthcare

NHS London and Groundswell are empowering people who are homeless in the capital to seek healthcare and stay as well as possible this winter – help us reach more people.

The award-winning ‘My Right to Healthcare’ cards, produced by Groundswell in partnership with the NHS in London, are being distributed to people who are homeless across London – explaining how they can access healthcare from a local GP without ID, proof of address or confirmed immigration status. NHS England have committed to distributing these cards to those outside of London in 2020.

Too often, people who are homeless think that they aren’t able to register at a GP practice and get an appointment because of this. While there are already some specialist GP services for rough sleepers, it is hoped that this initiative will help improve access to care – with nearly a third of all deaths of homeless people caused by easily treatable health conditions.

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 7 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 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 that NHS England are committed to the national roll out of these cards and promote better training for all GP staff, because everyone has the right to healthcare.”

Seeing a GP early enough can prevent some illnesses from deteriorating and allows healthcare professionals to refer patients to other NHS services.

The original version of the cards was trialled in 2017 by Groundswell and Healthy London Partnership to inform people that when registering with a GP:

You do not need a fixed address.

You do not need identification.

Your immigration status does not matter

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”.

Groundswell are calling for services, organisations and charities that work with people experiencing homelessness in London to get in touch if they would like to distribute cards.

If you’re based in London please email – info@groundswell.org.uk 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

If you’re an organisation supporting homeless people and based outside of London that would like to distribute cards when they launch in 2020, email NHS England – england.eandhi@nhs.net with:

  • Your name
  • Organisation name, postal address
  • Type of service you provide
  • The number cards you would like posted to you