New campaign to support boat-dwellers to access healthcare in Oxford

Published: Monday, 4th November 2019

Oxford City Council and health partners have launched a new information campaign to support the growing numbers of people living on boats in the city to register with a doctor, improving their access to vital healthcare services.

It is estimated that there are around 180 households living permanently on boats within Oxford city, with many not having a fixed mooring location. 

It has been reported by some who live on boats that as a result of not having a fixed address there can be difficulties registering with a GP practice. In particular, this has affected those who do not have a permanent mooring.

Not having a fixed address should not prevent registration with a GP, and Oxford City Council has worked with Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group – the NHS body responsible for commissioning GP services in the city – to produce a new leaflet which provides easy-to-access information for boat-dwellers in response to concerns from the community.

Information has been sent to all GP practices in the city to remind them of their obligations and the processes by which they can still register a patient.  

Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the independent patient champion, has also produced a Know Your Rights card for boaters, which can be presented to help ensure a GP practice knows that a patient, regardless of their living arrangements or address status, should still be registered.

Healthwatch Oxfordshire is also surveying boat-dwellers across Oxford city and the wider county, confidentially exploring their experience of accessing healthcare, any problems encountered and feedback on how services could be improved.

“We have a growing community of people living on our waterways in the city – some permanently moored, and others more transitory. It is vital that all our communities know their rights and feel supported to access healthcare services.

“This is a simple initiative to help ensure that all in our communities receive the right information and support and that our NHS partners can provide the best access to care, keeping everyone in our city healthy.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Healthy Oxford

“Being registered with a GP will help keep boat dwellers well and prevent illness as winter approaches. People who are registered with a GP will be invited to have a free flu vaccination if they or anyone in their family is eligible.

“Being registered also makes it easier to get an appointment when it’s needed, and it is the gateway to receiving more specialist care if required and to routine screening, together with many other services.”  

Dr Edward Capo-Bianco, Urgent Care Lead at Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group

“As the independent patient rights champion, we work to ensure that all know their rights, have the right information to help them access health and social care and if needs be, we will be there to advise them if they face any difficulties.

“We are launching a survey to better understand whether there are any particular health needs in this community and to ensure that if there are any barriers or bad experiences of care we are able to respond.” 

Rosalind Pearce, Executive Director of Healthwatch Oxfordshire

Leaflets and cards are being distributed to boats across Oxford today.

The survey can be completed online and paper copies with a pre-paid envelope are also being distributed.

This is the latest initiative led by Oxford City Council as part of its “Oxford Waterways Project”, a partnership project which seeks to improve the waterways in the city for all.  The “Vision for Oxford’s Waterways” was published on Monday 7 October 2019.