Fair System? - Access to Primary Care
Improving access to GP services for people who are homeless
Nationally the awareness of those who identify as homeless has been on the rise. With an increase in the number of homeless individuals, questions have been asked about how they access Primary Care, if and when they should need it. Issues around address, documentation and identification are all valid issues as to why individuals may struggle to access primary care.
These reasons are not unique to homeless people and may affect many members of the public. As a result Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire have investigated the requirements of GP practices so that the public can be better informed about their rights when accessing Primary Care.
The report examines the process by which those with no permanent address, sofa surfing, sleeping rough and people with no identification register with a GP practice to access Primary Care. In addition to this Healthwatch also investigate which practices across the region are not following national guidance when faced with members of the public who may find it difficult to produce documentation.
How Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire helped?
In response to this issue, Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire produced a report which chronicles all this information called the “Fair System” report and on the back of this, HWERY also produced “Registration Rights” cards, to help people understand their rights when it comes to registering with their GP and also to empower those people who walk into a GP practice without documentation.
The cards let both homeless people and professionals working at GP surgeries know that to register with your local GP practice:
- You don’t need proof of address
- You don’t need identification documents
- Your immigration status doesn’t matter
They also include Healthwatch’s number, so anyone who is refused registration by their GP for these reasons can contact Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire so we can hold those services to account.
Matthew Fawcett, Manager of Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire, said
“Everybody has the right to access care. It is not always possible for individuals to have the correct documentation, identification or proof of address that would help them register with a practice. Does this mean that they do not deserve treatment? It was important that we looked at how Healthwatch East Riding of Yorkshire could shine a light on this issue and also make sure that local practices were following national guidance. We then produced “Registration Rights” cards which will be gifted to those who feel most at risk of not being able to register so that they can walk into a practice knowing their rights and that they will be seen. This is by far one of the most important pieces of work Healthwatch East Riding have done as it has the chance to save a life.”
Healthwatch will continue to follow up the report and continue to ensure all local residents are able to have their voice listened to and help shape their local services. The full report can be found on the Healthwatch East Riding website http://www.healthwatcheastridingofyorkshire.co.uk/resources/fair-system-acces-primary-care or through contacting them directly on 01482 665684