The boss of a nursing body has called on the Government to address a perceived lack of NHS care for homeless people ahead of the winter.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said many people without a fixed address fail to register with a GP surgery, while those with serious mental health concerns are being allowed to return to the streets without an adequate care path, she said.
Writing in the new edition of The Big Issue, Ms Davies said too many rough sleepers mistakenly believe that proof of address is required to join a doctor's surgery.
In the article, Ms Davies writes: "Winter is fast approaching and the four Governments of the UK and their NHS must agree a rapid plan to make routine care and treatment more easily available during these harsh months.
"They must redouble efforts to let those without a fixed address know that GPs are able to make exceptions and make sure surgeries are left in no doubt.
"The barriers to accessing healthcare - getting through the door of the NHS in some form - must not be underestimated.
"And these obstacles can mean health problems remain untreated until somebody reaches crisis point, with a cycle of repeated A&E visits and overnight stays that fail to deal with underlying issues.
"Rough sleeping makes it harder to access longer-term health support too, such as mental health services.
"Specialist homelessness mental health teams have been subject to major funding cuts and even disappeared entirely while other services struggle to support people who face multiple complex problems. For others, not having a GP means there is nobody to make the necessary specialist referral.
"Ministers should pull out all the stops to make sure people being discharged from mental health hospital have a real alternative to the street.
"A nurse's role focuses on maximising potential and enabling independence - which is why we believe supporting the work of The Big Issue is so relevant for us. Nursing staff are ready to play a part in making this winter and the year that follows it a much-needed moment of change."
The Big Issue is on sale from November 6
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