Summary of report content
In October 2019, Healthwatch Oxfordshire launched a survey to enable members of the boating community to tell us about their experiences of health and social care. They heard from more than 65 people via conversations with boaters as well as with some of the regulatory and support agencies working with boaters. They also carried out a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise, contacting all GP surgeries in the county, posing as either boaters or travellers with no fixed address.
From their work, they found that boaters seem to be a ‘forgotten’ group – there is no targeted information and support and limited understanding of the issues facing boaters when accessing and using healthcare. This included registering with a General Practitioner (GP)- often the main gateway to other services. The main reason for this was cited as lack of residential or postal address, requests for identification, gatekeeping by receptionists and administrative and attitudinal barriers.
The report gave five recommendations which includes a targeted, strategic, proactive and coordinated engagement with boaters by health and social care support agencies in the county; health and social care agencies to improve understanding of health needs of boaters; Oxfordshire CCG to ensure that GP surgeries are aware of boaters’ challenges in accessing services; to address the barriers faced by some boaters in both registration and communication as a result of having no permanent address; and undertake practical measures to provide ‘boater friendly’ GP surgeries, targeted health, mental health and social care support.