Rough sleepers in Manchester will be given access to healthcare in general practices and accident and emergency centres, this week. Creator of the scheme, Dr Zahid Chauhan, aims for those without a home to have greater access to medical services.
Currently, homeless people are unable to join GP surgeries as they do not have a registered address. As a result, when faced with a medical issue, they are forced to attend accident and emergency. The lack of background information available at A&E — information usually tied to one’s address — makes it difficult for medical professionals to come up with a diagnosis.
Dr Chauhan, writing for GP Online, stated, “the programme calls on us all to make a cultural shift. It asks that we look at our policies and procedures to ensure that they are homeless-friendly. If practice staff need support and training, local GPs can provide that.”
With the ever-growing numbers of people attending A&E as opposed to booking appointments with their GPs, the stress on these services is reaching breaking point. The scheme is meant to reduce this pressure, not only by simply ensuring people are given treatment elsewhere, but more importantly by preventing problems before they become too serious to require emergency treatment.
Antibiotics for infections or wounds and surgeries for heart attacks — a condition which is growing exponentially within the homeless community — are amongst the most common medical issues that participating GPs will deal with.
Potentially, this scheme could allow those who sleep rough to enter into programs aimed at rehabilitation from alcohol or drug-related problems. antibiotics for infections or wounds and surgeries for heart attacks — a condition which is growing exponentially within the homeless community — and other medical issues.
This type of program has precedent and has an impressive track record of success. Urban Village Medical Practice, a participating surgery, has been operating a weekly drop-in and other programs specifically aimed at homeless people, for the last 15-years.
In addition, “All team members belong to the Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health, the first independent, multi-disciplinary body focused on the health care of homeless and other multiply excluded people.”
In 2012, the practice was approached to take part in a 6-month pilot scheme, aimed at uncovering the main reasons homeless people were using medical services. The study showed that proactive, preventative engagement with homeless people resulted in 81 of frequent users of medical services reducing their attendances.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, speaking to The Manchester Evening News, reiterated the benefits of people attending appointments in GPs surgeries, rather than simply turning up at A&E. He also stressed the benefits of preventative medicine
He also stressed the benefits of preventative medicine, saying: “It makes sense to give people that care when they need it rather than letting it become a much greater problem, that in the end might end up costing us all more.”
Homelessness has been on the rise recently, and Burnham made it clear he was well aware of the problem. He noted the emotional effect it had on him personally, “It is quite a sobering fact to realise that the average life expectancy for somebody rough sleeping or homeless is 47. I’m 47. So, that really hits home hard for me and it’s why I am so personally committed to this.”
Burnham has pledged to end homelessness in Manchester by the year 2020.
Survival kits are now being handed out to homeless people containing blankets, bottles of water and sleeping bags.
Participating clinics: Dam Head Medical Centre, Blackley, Royton Medical Centre, Oldham, Longsight Medical Centre, Lime Square Medical Centre, Fallowfield Medical Centre, Beacon Medical Centre, Medlock Medical Centre, Prestwich walk-in centre, The Dale Medical Practice, and Waters Meeting Health Centre.