THURROCK MP Jackie Doyle-Price in her capacity as a Health Minister rose on the floor of the House of Commons to answer a question on vulnerable groups.
Q. Tulip Siddiq Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether his Department has responded to the recommendations of the report by the Data and Research Working Group of the National Inclusion Health Board, Effective health care for vulnerable groups prevented by data gaps, which was commissioned by his Department in 2014.
A.Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care
No formal response has been published by the Government to the report, Hidden Needs: Identifying Key Vulnerable Groups in Data Collections: Vulnerable Migrants, Gypsies and Travellers, Homeless People, and Sex Workers, published as part of the Inclusion Health programme in 2014. The health sector is, however, undertaking work which will meet many of the recommendations made in the report.
For example, NHS England is scoping out options for updating data collection within the National Health Service to include more of the protected characteristics listed under the Equality Act 2010. This could potentially mean that the NHS Data Dictionary would identify Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as separate groups for the first time, which would make it possible to more fully understand the extent of the inequalities this community experiences; the scoping work is due to be completed during 2018.
NHS England published guidance for general practitioner (GP) practices in 2015 which clarifies the rights of patients and the responsibilities of providers in registering with a GP practice; and a patient-facing information leaflet was published in 2017.
The Department has also commissioned research to investigate approaches to community engagement that are most likely to enhance trust between Gypsy/Travellers and mainstream health services; this project is due to report later in 2018.
This Government is concerned about the very poor health among people who experience homelessness and so we are taking action to address the root causes. Currently, it is not possible to identify patients who have paid for non-emergency treatment and who are registered as having no fixed abode within Hospital Episode Statistics. However, we are implementing an ambitious legislative reform, the Homelessness Reduction Act, which means more people will get the help they need earlier to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place. We are committed to halving rough sleeping by 2020 and are investing £550 million to address the issue.
All of the above work is underpinned by the first-ever health inequalities duty, as laid out in the Equality Act 2010 and the NHS Act 2006 as amended by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This ensures that health services take account of excluded and vulnerable groups in the planning of their services.