Healthy London Partnership’s London Homeless Health Programme (LHHP) is working to improve the health, and access to health services, for people who are homeless in London.

The numbers of people sleeping rough in London have been increasing steadily over recent years. Wellbeing and health are seriously compromised when you are affected by homelessness. The average age of death for someone who is sleeping rough is just 47, half that of the general population. People who are homeless 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.

In line with previous research, a recent report from Healthy London Partnership found that access requirements - such as being asked to provide proof of address and ID - were a key barrier to accessing primary care for people who are homeless.  As part of their work they have produced the ‘My right to access healthcare’ cards to help people experiencing homelessness to register and receive treatment at GP practices in London. The cards 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 a GP practice
  • Where necessary, the practice may use the practice’s address to register the patient if they wish

10,000 plastic cards have gone out to shelters, day centres and other organisations across London.  All GP practices have been asked to make their receptionists, practice managers and other front line staff aware of the cards and national patient registration guidance. The cards were produced in partnership with Healthwatch and homeless charity Groundswell.

An online training course for GP receptionists and practice managers will also be launched early next year. This training will cover the specific issues faced by patients who experience homelessness; best practice in supporting and treating them and service access rights and engagement. As well as the training content it will include an interactive quiz and material which will enable practices to self-audit and plan for service improvements they want to make. The training will be promoted widely to GP practices in London.

The LHHP has also developed a ‘Commissioning Guide’ as a ‘once for London’ tool that can be used by all CCGs and as an important reference document for anyone delivering health services to people who are affected by homelessness. Also recently published is a powerful report - More than a statistic – based on an extensive peer-led consultation project led by Groundswell.

For more information visit the Healthy London Partnership website or for further information about the card please email: lhhp@nhs.net

source hwbb 19.12.16