The Waterways Chaplaincy team in the North West has been working very closely with the Healthwatch Team in Cheshire to raise awareness of issues with access not only to GP surgeries but also Covid-19 vaccinations.
Senior chaplain Martin Buck told Towpath Talk that one area of consistency that the Chaplaincy is reporting is the discrimination that some boaters receive when trying to register with an alternative surgery.
“During the initial towpath walks that have been taken with the representatives of Healthwatch Cheshire, the diversity of stories relating to the ability to register with a practice is the most alarming feature we encounter.
“On the whole many of these stories have had positive outcomes, however, other stories have tangibly different outcomes, sometimes even where one surgery has accepted a boater and then the very same surgery flatly rejects the next boater.”
There has been dialogue with the NHS Central body to get a nationally approved document to enable boaters to claim their rightful access to any GP surgery. Initially, 1000 of these cards are being printed for distribution in the North West and the team awaits news of further print runs. It is hoped these can then be rolled out nationally across the boating network nationally.
Martin explained: “We are in the process of doing similar requests to other key outlets such as the Boaters Christian Fellowship, the Canal & River Trust, NABO and RBOA.
“With the assistance of CRT we have been given access to their new Blue Boards and have been circulating around the various marinas to enable comprehensive coverage of the network that will give boaters the confidence to register at ANY surgery, despite being miles from home or indeed without the luxury of having a home surgery.”
He added: “More importantly, with the Covid vaccination programme being rolled out nationally, there is an urgent need to capture those who may not have the facility to receive communications regarding appointment times and where to go.
“We are aware that some boaters may be overlooked in the campaign to get vaccinated and WWC has also been in communication with other support agencies for other social groups who may have been overlooked or have concerns about the vaccination programme.”
For further information regarding the vaccine programme visit the coronavirus-vaccination section at www.nhs.uk or if unable to book online, call 119 free of charge. Anyone in an eligible cohort to receive their vaccine will be sorted out with a date and venue.