Advertisement
News

Travellers and homeless people are wrongfully denied GP appointments

Nearly half contacted turned away a mystery shopper who said she needed to be seen for ‘a woman’s problem’ but had no proof of address or ID

Vulnerable people without a fixed address are being turned away from GP surgeries, new research has found, despite NHS guidelines that say they should receive treatment.

Charity Friends, Families and Travellers had a mystery shopper posing as a person without proof of address or identification who had just moved to the area contact 50 surgeries around England. Nearly half would not register her.

Of those contacted, 24 would refused to register the mystery shopper either as a permanent patient or as a temporary patient. That included 17 GP practices that would not register people without proof of identification, 12 that would not register people without an address and one which said they would only register people online. Two GP practices were called multiple times on different days but never picked up the phone.

The NHS guidelines say that there is “no regulatory requirement” for someone applying to become a patient to prove their identity, address, immigration status or NHS number.

Following the report, Secretary of State for Healthy and Social Care Matt Hancock will today receive a letter signed by more than 30 charities and human rights organisations including Homeless Link, Liberty, Mind and Race Equality Foundation demanding action is taken to address the issue.

Experts want the government to set up a taskforce which will ensure nobody is wrongfully denied access to healthcare.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Kit, who lives on board a boat and travels the canals of England trading antique china, said: “I only persisted with attempting to register because I knew I actually had cancer.

“It has turned out to be a stage 3 cancer.

“There were three tumours and five affected lymph nodes. Despite the fact that I knew my rights, provided information on registering at a GP’s address and articulated my case, I had to compromise my confidentiality on two occasions to access belated care for an aggressive, life-threatening disease which could have been caught years earlier.”

The research was focused on the experiences of the 80,000 travellers in England but applies to other vulnerable groups including homeless people, asylum seekers and refugees plus people fleeing domestic violence.

All but two of the GP practices contacted were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for their work with vulnerable people.

A spokesperson for the NHS argued against the findings, pointing out that the research represented less than one per cent of GP surgeries and that everyone in England has the legal right to choose their own GP.

But Sarah Sweeney, communications and health policy co-ordinator at Friends, Families and Travellers, described “longstanding and stubborn” issues around vulnerable groups’ access to primary care.

She added: “The communities affected by this issue are caught in a catch 22 where they are both at high risk of poor health and also find it much harder to access healthcare.”

Deputy chief inspector of general practice at CQC Ruth Rankine said the findings were “concerning”.

Advertisement

Bigger Issues need bigger solutions

Big Issue Group is creating new solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunities for the 14.5 million people living in poverty to earn, learn and thrive. Big Issue Group brings together our media and investment initiatives as well as a diverse and pioneering range of new solutions, all of which aim to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity. Learn how you can change lives today.

Recommended for you

Read All
Women's Euro 2022: 5 teams to watch
Women's Euro 2022

Women's Euro 2022: 5 teams to watch

Women's Euro 2022: 5 players to watch
Women's Euro 2022

Women's Euro 2022: 5 players to watch

Michael Gove interview: Scottish independence 'would be vandalism'
Politics

Michael Gove interview: Scottish independence 'would be vandalism'

'We all changed the world in our own ways': How the first London Pride march changed lives
Social Justice

'We all changed the world in our own ways': How the first London Pride march changed lives

Most Popular

Read All
Exclusive: BT call centre sets up 'food bank' for its own staff
1.

Exclusive: BT call centre sets up 'food bank' for its own staff

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'
2.

Prince William: 'Why I wanted to work with The Big Issue'

Rainn Wilson emailed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to say Harry Mudd would 'fit right in'
3.

Rainn Wilson emailed Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to say Harry Mudd would 'fit right in'

The UK approach to replacing the Human Rights Act is just as worrying as the replacement itself
4.

The UK approach to replacing the Human Rights Act is just as worrying as the replacement itself

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.