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NHS and leading charity join forces to help homeless people in the capital to get vital healthcare this winter


NHS and leading charity join forces to help homeless people in the capital to get vital healthcare this winter

NHS London and homelessness charity Groundswell are empowering those experiencing homelessness in the capital to seek healthcare and stay as well as possible this winter.

The award-winning ‘My Right to Healthcare’ cards, produced by Groundswell in partnership with the NHS in London, are being distributed to those experiencing homelessness across London – explaining how they can access healthcare from a local GP without ID, proof of address or confirmed immigration status.

Too often, homeless people 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 those  experiencing homelessness, 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 in early 2020.

Sir David Sloman, Regional Director for the NHS in London, 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 and would like to distribute cards 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