Concerns have been raised over the provision of medical care for Glasgow’s homeless, after GPs claimed there was a “lack of consultation” over the closure of a homeless practice that had been operating for 20 years.
The Hunter Street homeless practice, established in 2004, came to an end on March 31 this year with 166 patients offered the opportunity to be transferred to a new GP based on their postcode.
The decision to close the practice came as part of a reorganisation of the Health and Social Care Partnership’s Complex Needs Service (CNS).
During Thursday’s full council meeting councillor Elaine McDougall said she had been advised that the consultation period had only lasted one week.
And she said the Deep End Group of GPs, who work in practices serving the most vulnerable people, had also raised concerns.
She said: “In a briefing it is claimed that there was an extensive period of consultation but GPs at the practice say that the “extensive period” was just one week.
“Something that the Deep End Group expressed their concern about was if there was any consultation with GP practice who were allocated the 133 patients prior to the decision being taken, was there any consideration about the capacity of GP practices and whether they would be able to deliver the intensive healthcare often required.”
Councillor McDougall asked what consultation had been taken with service users and GPs before withdrawing the service.
Councillor Chris Cunningham, convenor for Health, Care and Caring and Older People, said he wouldn’t comment on the detail of the consultation which took place with members of the practice as he did not think it was appropriate.
“What I will say about the 166 patients which were known to the service and subject to that review, the initial review confirmed that 33 no longer required a GP service as they had moved out of the area or accessed a GP elsewhere” he said.
“The remaining patients have now been assigned to a locality GP based on their postcode and following engagement with practitioner services with the clinical director completing all of the required prescriptions.”
The Hunter Street practice was set up in 2004 to help provide medical services for homeless people unable to register at a GP as they did not have a permanent address.
Since then however, the requirement to have a permanent address to register at a GP practice has been dropped, while the use of ‘model lodging houses’, which used to provide homeless people with a temporary address, has been “phased out” after “changes to the way in which homeless applicants are now assessed and assisted.”
“What has not changed is that many who are homeless also experience a range of complex needs, either as a cause of their homelessness or as a consequence of it,” Cllr Cunningham said.
“How we assist homeless applicants and ensure they are able to access services, lies behind the changes which are at the root of this issue.
“With regard to detailed consultation, this has included service users, GPs and other stakeholders and I can confirm that this process has been ongoing since 2017 following the decision to review the homeless health service provision in preparation for the Glasgow safer drug consumption facility proposals and the development of the complex needs service.
“It is important that people who are homeless remain members of the community along with the principle of maximising their independence. This is the arrangement we are using if they are going forward.”