Homeless people in West Berkshire are being forced to travel to Reading to access primary medical care in some cases, a recently published report has claimed.
Healthwatch West Berkshire discovered that some homeless patients weren’t getting the attention they needed in West Berkshire, and in some instances the only place they could be seen was the Reading walk-in centre.
The findings were published in Healthwatch’s annual report, with the watchdog saying not enough is being done to help the district’s homeless in regards to medical support.
Andrew Sharp, chief officer of Healthwatch West Berkshire, said: “It is not acceptable in 2017 that those with chaotic, challenging lives have such difficulty accessing a basic GP service when they are in pain or ill.
“For most homeless people in West Berkshire, the Reading walk-in centre option might as well be in Glasgow.
“It defies belief that so much effort is going into avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, yet this group of disadvantaged people often only get seen by A&E for basic treatment.
“This needs to change and we will be campaigning for more locally tailored services.”
Healthwatch has been doing outreach work with homeless people and the organisations that support them, such as Two Saints, Loose Ends, Eight Bells and the Newbury Soup Kitchen.
It was through this work that Healthwatch found problems with primary medical care for homeless people, describing it as “haphazard” and “not working very successfully locally”.
A statement from the Newbury CCG, which commissions healthcare services in West Berkshire, said: “We are committed to ensuring people who are homeless have the same access to healthcare as the general population.
“Working with our partners, including local authorities and the police, we actively promote the ways that homeless people can access medical care.
“This includes the national policy that anybody in England may register and consult with a GP without charge.
“There is no regulatory requirement to prove identity, address or immigration status to register at a GP surgery.”