A Heywood surgery has become one of the first in the country to pledge to practice good healthcare for the homeless.
The Hopwood Medical Centre on Walton Street has agreed to become Homeless-Friendly and ensure that all patients receive quality treatment regardless of whether or not they have a permanent address.
This after rough sleepers in some parts of the country reported they were being refused medical attention because they couldn’t prove residency.
Launched last year by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and created by national health campaigner Dr Zahid Chauhan, the programme encourages surgeries to treat those sleeping on the streets with compassion and even help them access housing, training and addiction services.
But as is the case with Hopwood, it also supports people on the verge of losing their home, who might be suffering physical and mental health problems. “When people are worried about debt, unemployment and paying the rent this can manifest itself in conditions such as stress, heart problems and alcohol dependency” said Dr Chauhan, “then there are the many patients doctors see who suffer chest problems because they live in damp, squalid conditions. Conservative figures show that there are around 80,000 people in the UK living in temporary accommodation with 41% of young people admitting that friends have stayed on their floors. They, like everyone else in our community, deserve good healthcare.”
The so-called “hidden homeless” are a group Hopwood know all about and the surgery has in fact been ahead of the game in treating them. Hopwood GP Dr Zahir Mohammed (who is also Medical Director at out-of-hours service, BARDOC) said: “We do have homeless patients and those of no fixed abode who we have already started registering using our surgery address. These are people who have fallen on hard times who have financial difficulties and may have lost their jobs, had relationship issues or suffered from depression. Our door is always open to these patients.”
According to national research by Homeless Link, close on three-quarters of homeless people have physical health problems with 80% experiencing mental health issues. Over a third fail to eat more than one meal per day and the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is just 47 years-of-age.
“Such desperate health problems should mean that the homeless receive the best healthcare but sadly many don’t visit the surgery and instead present at A&E when the situation becomes desperate” revealed Dr Chauhan. “The Hopwood Medical Centre is a trailblazer for other surgeries to follow and more importantly, is sending out the message that high quality healthcare is for everyone.”
The Homeless-Friendly programme encourages organisations to pledge to make their services completely accessible to those with no fixed address. The scheme offers training and support and invites participants to join together to signpost homeless people to the services that can help them out of poverty, joblessness and homelessness. Learn more at: www.homelessfriendly.co.uk