A pioneering scheme to shift society’s sometimes shoddy attitude to homeless people will begin today (Monday, October 2nd 2017 ) in doctor’s surgeries across Greater Manchester.

Eight practices plus an out-of-hours emergency healthcare provider, have become the first in the UK to pledge to treat rough sleepers, sofa surfers and any other person without a fixed abode with the same dignity and respect afforded to the rest of society. This after research showed that some sick homeless people were being turned away from surgeries – because they didn’t have a permanent address.

Run by not-for-profit social enterprise Beacon GP CARE, the Homeless-Friendly programme is the brainchild of Greater Manchester GP, Dr Zahid Chauhan.

Said Dr Chauhan: “We want to see a cultural shift towards homeless people in the way that everyone from banks to supermarkets has changed their attitude to those with dementia. The NHS is a superbly compassionate organisation with a real zeal for improvement, so where better to start than in our surgeries?”

So serious are the health problems facing homeless people, that treating them before they develop serious conditions could save taxpayers millions of pounds, argues Dr Chauhan. He also believes healthcarers have a moral imperative to care for a group of people whose average life-expectancy is just 47-years-of-age.

Research from various homelessness charities has shown that:

  • 73% of homeless people said they had experienced recent physical health problems
  • 41% said they were dealing with a long-term health problem
  • 80% of rough sleepers reported some form of mental health issue and,
  • 35% had been to Accident & Emergency recently and 26% had been admitted to hospital over the past six months.

Launched by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and supported by MPs including Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) plus charities such as The Salvation Army, Homeless-Friendly will encourage participants to pledge to:

  • Train staff so that they can meet the needs of people who don’t have a fixed address
  • Work with charities and voluntary sector organisations so that homeless people (including children) can be signposted to those who can help them
  • Encourage other organisations to become community spaces where people can learn about the causes and consequences of homelessness and even host foodbanks.

Included in the pioneering pledgers are BARDOC (an out-of-hours emergency healthcare service in Bolton, Bury and Rochdale),  the Fallowfield Medical Centre, the Royton Medical Centre (Oldham), the Dale Medical Practice in Rochdale and Lime Square Medical Centre in Openshaw which has a high proportion of homeless people in B&B’s.

Concluded Dr Chauhan: “Local surgeries are still at the hub of many communities and understand its needs in a way other organisations do not – and so I passionately believe that they are the best flag-bearers for this campaign. But it is my great hope that Homeless-Friendly extends beyond the surgery into our whole society. When it comes to homelessness, a sense of pity only goes so far. We need to take action, tackle its roots and consequences and also remember that there but for the grace of God, go we.”                                                        

Programme puts homeless-friendly values into practice

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