Boaters’ experience of accessing health and social care services

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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.

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General details

Report title 
Boaters’ experience of accessing health and social care services
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Oxfordshire
Date of publication 
Tuesday, 24 March, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Tuesday, 1 October, 2019
Date evidence capture finished 
Thursday, 31 October, 2019
Type of report 
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Continuity of care
Health inequalities
Information providing
Staff attitudes
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
If this work has been done in partnership, who is the partner? 
Primary research method used 
How was the information collected? 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice
Mental health services 
Psychiatry / mental health (other services)

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Other population characteristics 
People who are geographically isolated
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
What type of impact was determined? 
Network related impact

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.