Protecting healthcare services for homeless people

E. Smith 999 Club News

999 Club are one of 193 organisations and 880 individuals who have signed an open letter to Jeremy Hunt protesting against changes that could prevent homeless people and other vulnerable groups from accessing life-saving healthcare.

New government guidelines, introduced without legislation or public consultation, mean that soon everyone will have to prove they are eligible to receive secondary healthcare. If you are not eligible, you will be charged for receiving it. While it will still be free to see a GP, many of the outreach services designed specifically for the most vulnerable people in society, including homeless people, are classed as secondary healthcare provision.

People who sleep rough often don’t have the basic identity documents. These can be lost, stolen, are expensive to replace and challenging without a postal address, so it is more difficult for them to prove that their British Citizenship, or immigration status, means that they are entitled to healthcare. This could ultimately mean that some outreach services may have to turn homeless people away – even when those people are entitled to secondary treatment.

The letter has the support of over 300 doctors, 50 nurses, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Faculty of Homeless and Inclusion Health, the Faculty of Public Health and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Sir David Nicholson, former CEO of NHS England has also endorsed it.

If you want to find out more, a recent article in the Guardian explores the potential implications of these new guidelines and you can read the open letter here.

If you want to do more, you can write to your local MP. Remember – while access to primary healthcare will still be free at the point of demand, many homeless people are not registered with a GP and expect that a GP surgery will refuse to see them. Outreach services are provided for this very reason and are often the only way that people who sleep rough can access basic healthcare.