Mon, 11 Feb 2019
A SPECIAL card to further champion the health care rights of rough sleepers and homeless people in the district has been launched.
The West Berkshire My Right To Healthcare card will be handed out to disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals to ensure they gain access to the medical attention they are entitled to.
The card has been designed to remind staff in GP practices how it is against NHS patient registration guidelines for surgeries to turn away vulnerable people who do not have ID, a fixed address or have no proof of their immigration status.
The initiative is being run in partnership with the West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board Homeless Strategy Group.
The Healthwatch West Berkshire (HWWB) team will be distributing the West Berkshire My Right To Healthcare cards to the homeless via a range of charities and organisations.
These include Loose Ends, Newbury Soup Kitchen, Two Saints and Swanswell, as well as the West Berkshire Housing team, the job centre and Citizens Advice West Berkshire.
It will also provide hospital discharge teams with the contact information of West Berkshire Council’s housing team to ensure provision of shelter to aid recovery post-discharge.
The card also includes information that may be vital for a homeless individual’s health and wellbeing, such as West Berkshire Winter Housing Provision telephone numbers and its operating times, along with the telephone number of the mental health crisis team.
There is also a space for the person’s name and NHS number, if the latter is known.
HWWB chief officer Andrew Sharp said the card would serve as a valuable reminder that the health rights of the district’s disadvantaged should not be ignored.
Mr Sharp said: “Homelessness continues to be a key issue in West Berkshire, with the number of homeless people in the area worryingly above national levels.
“Our role at Healthwatch West Berkshire is to provide a voice to everyone – this includes those who are homeless or rough sleeping.
“By launching the West Berkshire My Right To Healthcare card, we hope to assist this seldom-heard group to gain the healthcare that they are entitled to.”
“The card is simple and clear, stating: ‘I do not need a fixed address, I do not need identification. My immigration status does not matter’.”
Mr Sharp added: “With the extreme cold of winter only just hitting West Berkshire, we hope the card will ensure that everyone is aware of the rights of the homeless regarding healthcare provision and that those in this vulnerable group will be able to access and improve their health and social care outcomes in our community.”
For more details, visit the HWWB website at www.heathwatchwestberks.org.uk or call the team on (01635) 760 341.