BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Friday, 20 October, 2000, 14:46 GMT
Bench address beats homeless red tape
Address of bench
The bench was given its own postal address
A park bench in Bristol has been given an official postal address so doctors can register the homeless as patients.

It is, say staff at the Montpelier Health Centre, the only way of overcoming ridiculous NHS red tape which is preventing them offering treatment to street-sleepers.

The new address is simple - Park Bench, Portland Square, Bristol - and even has its own postcode.

Practice manager Tony Palmer found it impossible to put new patients on the books if they were of "no fixed abode", so the health authority has let him turn the bench into a home solely for the purposes of medical records.

Homeless
Homeless people have poor access to medical care
He said: "The way the NHS works means every patient needs to have a registered address and this seemed like a good, workable solution.

"I think we have about six people at that address now and it is working okay."

Family doctors are paid by a labyrinthine system of fees, and often end up registering patients as temporary visitors to the area in order to be able to claim payment for treating them.

However, three months later, the homeless patients are back to square one unless the same arrangment can be recreated.

More medical problems

Ironically, homeless people generally have more need of medical assistance than other people, and often end up at Accident and Emergency Units asking for help.

A spokesman for the homeless charity Shelter said: "Our research suggests that as many as 37% of homeless people are not registered with a GP - that's 10 times the proportion of the general population.

"They are missing out on elements of care such as proper repeat prescriptions, and a GP who knows your full history.

"We've suggested a number of ways of making registration simpler."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories