NHS heroes help liveaboard communities

The Pandemic has been difficult for some liveaboards.

The pandemic has shone a spotlight on our NHS, which celebrates its 73rd birthday today. Never in it’s 73 years has it been under such scrutiny and such pressure. But it didn’t buckle. On the contrary; it stood tall, and made a nation proud. On the frontlines were the NHS workers, underfunded and underpaid, who worked tirelessly to save lives again and again. If this wasn’t enough, they went above and beyond in assisting often overlooked communities throughout a stressful series of lockdowns. One such group to benefit from the extra support were liveaboard boaters.

These are the residents of Britain’s waterways and coasts. An alternative lifestyle; alien to some, romanticised by others. United by a love for the water, some are nomadic, travelling the length and breadth of the country whilst others decide to take up more permanent residences.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many liveaboards found it challenging to access COVID19 test kits as they were rolled out as part of the NHS Test and Trace. The problem? Often having no fixed address. In fact, a recent report by the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance found 37% of boaters without a fixed address had been rejected when they tried to register with a doctor or dentist.

However, this didn’t stop the NHS reaching them. Working with charities, such as Julian House, NHS keyworkers teamed up with local health authorities and found a solution. Outreach staff were able to deliver test kits to liveaboards on their own vessels and testing was able to resume in these communities.

Today, the UK will be proudly celebrating our healthcare workers and, with success stories like this one, rightly so! The NHS wants to treat people who need their help and work so hard to do so. However, sometimes people who liveaboard boats struggle to access health care. If you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Ask to talk to the GP or practice manager.
  2. If they tell you they can’t register you, tell them that NHS guidance says that ‘the absence of a permanent address is not a barrier for a person with ‘no fixed abode’ to registering with a GP practice’.
  3. Make sure you write down the date you tried to register and any other details such as the name of the person/people you spoke to at the practice and any quotes as this will be useful later.
  4. If you are still refused, contact NHS England at contactus@nhs.net.


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