Now, more than ever, GPs must register those in need
The alarming rate at which people who have no home are unlawfully rejected when they apply to register with a GP, is depressingly long-standing. And now, in the midst of an almost year-long lethal pandemic, the need to stamp out this injustice has become acute.
On 30 December, the JCVI updated its advice to Government on who should be prioritised for vaccination against COVID. In that advice, the JCVI identify increasing chronological age as the single greatest risk of mortality from COVID. On this basis, chronologically older people, as well as people who live and work in care homes, have been prioritised for vaccination. An additional group identified as being at elevated risk of serious illness if infected with the virus, is people assessed as being clinically extremely vulnerable.
We know that people with no home are substantially more likely than even the most deprived housed people to report having chronic diseases such as asthma, chronic COPD, heart problems and stroke. We also know that people with no home become old before their time and display high levels of frailty. The five key features of frailty - unintentional weight loss; feelings of exhaustion; weakness; slow walking speed and low levels of physical activity - amongst younger people with no home, are comparable to 89-year-olds in the general population. Research has also found that people with no home have an average of seven long-term health conditions, far higher than people in their 90s. In far too many cases, chronically, severely compromised health means people with no home die decades younger than their housed counterparts.
And yet, very many people with no home will not be able to show that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and so remain exposed to the danger of COVID. Why? Because they are refused access to the very clinics in which they might be assessed as being top priority for vaccination. Now, with the increased risk of infection in many parts of the country, we must robustly challenge the all too frequent failure of primary care services to fulfil their duty to meet the health needs of the whole community. We can do this, in unison by, every single time one of our clients is refused GP registration, submitting a complaint to NHS England on that client’s behalf. If as many of Homeless Link's members as possible can do this, we can make change. Take action, make change - download your simple-to-use template complaint email here.
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