Rochdale puts helping the homeless into practice

Date published: 02 October 2017

Rochdale is right at the heart of a new national campaign to make Britain homeless-friendly.

The Dale Medical Practice and the borough’s out-of-hours healthcare service BARDOC, are among the first nine concerns in the country to put that ethos into practice.

Run by social enterprise Beacon GP CARE and created by Nye Bevan House GP Dr Zahid Chauhan (who writes a regular column for Rochdale Online), the pioneering scheme asks organisations to examine their policies to make sure rough sleepers, sofa-surfers and others without a fixed abode get proper access to services and are reminded that they are valued members of society.

Also backed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the campaign was created after Dr Chauhan spoke with homeless people and discovered that some had been wrongly turned away from surgeries because they didn’t have a permanent address.

Whilst assisting local charities on weekend night-time shifts, he also learnt the heart-breaking health problems facing homeless people.

Dr Chauhan commented: “We want to see a cultural shift towards the homeless in the way that everyone from banks to supermarkets has changed their attitude to those with dementia.

“Largely from dysfunctional families, with low educational achievement and perhaps tackling addiction, homeless people face huge daily crises. The NHS is a superbly compassionate organisation with a real zeal for improvement, so where better to start than in our surgeries?”

Research from various homelessness charities has shown that: 

  • 73% of homeless people said they had experienced recent physical health problems.
  • 41% said they were dealing with a long-term health problem.
  • 80% of rough sleepers reported some form of mental health issue.
  • 35% had been to Accident and Emergency recently and 26% had been admitted to hospital over the past six months.

BARDOC is the first out-of-hours service in the UK to pledge to become homeless-friendly. Having just been acknowledged by national health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for their work providing blankets, food and other essentials to vulnerable patients, their compassion made them the obvious choice to pioneer the programme.

Along with the Dale Medical Practice, BARDOC has made a public pledge to:  

  • Train staff so that they can meet the needs of people who don’t have a fixed address.
  • Work with charities and voluntary sector organisations so that homeless people (including children) can be signposted to those who can help them.
  • Encourage other organisations to become community spaces where people can learn about the causes and consequences of homelessness and even host foodbanks.

Vicky Riding, Chief Executive of BARDOC, said: “Homelessness is a worrying problem and Rochdale needs to care for everyone from the rough sleepers in the town centres to people staying at friends’ houses – plus those living in outhouses, barns and abandoned cars.

“In our work, we are discovering more and more about homelessness – and are determined to do something about it. We hope our example will spur others on.”

Dr Chauhan concluded: “Local surgeries and out-of-hours services like BARDOC are still at the hub of many communities and understand its needs in a way that other organisations do not. I passionately believe that they are the best flag-bearers for this campaign.

“It is my great hope that ‘homeless-friendly’ extends beyond the surgery into our whole society. When it comes to homelessness, a sense of pity only goes so far: we need to take action, tackle its roots and consequences and also remember that there but for the grace of God, go we.” 

Do you have a story for us?

Let us know by emailing
All contact will be treated in confidence.

To contact the Rochdale Online news desk, email or visit our news submission page.

To get the latest news on your desktop or mobile, follow Rochdale Online on Twitter and Facebook.

While you are here...

...we have a small favour to ask; would you support Rochdale Online and join other residents making a contribution, from just £3 per month?

Rochdale Online offers completely independent local journalism with free access. If you enjoy the independent news and other free services we offer (event listings and free community websites for example), please consider supporting us financially and help Rochdale Online to continue to provide local engaging content for years to come. Thank you.

Support Rochdale Online