Since it was established in 2000, the Personal Medical Services (PMS) based on Monkgate have been providing specialist health care for the travelling and homeless community of York. However, NHS North Yorkshire have now made the decision to close the doors of this unique healthcare centre with plans to move patients to larger GP practices where officials claim better patient care is available.
Set up by the York Homeless service, the initial objective behind this very unique mode of healthcare was to reduce the health inequalities of the homeless or travelling community by offering an ‘effective, accessible and responsive primary health care’ to those who are not registered with a local GP or who had difficulty in accessing health care services. This often meant treating this part of the local community separate from the mainstream whilst also dealing with the additional healthcare issues that can arise from homelessness into drug, alcohol and mental health problems.
Yet, a recent review of the centre suggested that services for the traveller and homeless community could be provided more suitably and efficiently through outreach, nurse-led clinics and registration with a primary medical GP service. It was therefore proposed that healthcare provisions for this population should look to create a more flexible and supportive service at the heart of the community rather than offering a specialist provider that could potentially only extend the social exclusion of this often already ostracised community.
NHS North Yorkshire also claimed that the Monkgate centre could not sufficiently deal with the number of patients and complexity of patient complaints with just one doctor and a small surgery at their disposal. They are now looking to identity GP practices in the York area who could work in conjunction with the voluntary services who care for this community to help provide an acceptable level of healthcare for them
However, the announcement of the centre’s closure to the traveller and homeless population has already sparked unease and anger with Jeremy Jones, chief executive of homeless centre Arc Light, saying that the proposed changed could put the health of these patients at real risk.
He told the BBC: “You cannot put a price on health and it is at the heart of the work we do. Our clients have extremely disorganised and chaotic lifestyles and this service is critical,”
Christine Shepherd, from the York Travellers Trust, added: “A lot of the community members we deal with are very reluctant to engage with these kind of services. They just don’t have the faith or trust in them.The PMS service was such a valuable service because people could just walk in and be seen.”