THE homeless in a borough are still having difficulties accessing health services two years after concerns were first raised.

Homeless people continue to experience barriers to register at GP services, according to a damning report by Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen.

While fears were also raised in the report about the standard of Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO’s) which many homeless and vulnerable people have been in or are currently in.

It comes after similar concerns were raised in 2017 by the health watchdog about homeless people in the borough facing barriers including difficulties accessing GPs and dentists.

The report reads: “A key finding from the second phase of engagement was that a number of residents are still experiencing barriers to register at GP surgeries.

“They did however manage to register and access GP appointments with the support of their key worker.

“A cause of concern is the lack of power for local authorities to regulate HMO’s.

“The living conditions and the buy in from such establishments is key to the overall health and wellbeing of these groups of people.

“There is an urgent need to lobby government around this issue.”

Amongst other concerns raised in the report was uncertainty over future funding for services such as Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) and STEP , which help vulnerable adults in the borough to turn their lives around.

The projects focused on working with complex and vulnerable adults who often live in hostel accommodation or shared housing.

Many of these people have experienced or are at risk of becoming homeless, as well as having a history of addiction, mental health problems and involvement with the criminal justice system.

The report added: “A clear Homelessness and Offenders strategy is required for a multi-agency and unified approach with permanent delivery of services to achieve outcomes for vulnerable people. “

In 2016/17, Healthwatch had raised other concerns including a lack of mental health provision and one on one support for those experiencing homelessness, as well as there being a lack of a joined-up approach and services working together.

This year’s report is a revisit of the Homelessness & Vulnerable Reports Project from 2016/17 which spoke to 254 people.

The latest report did acknowledge though that services have been put in place to support vulnerable and homeless people in the borough.

They said that this included through MEAM, STEP and drugs and alcohol services (Change Grow Live), which they said means there is wrap around support available for those that require it.

Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCGs) mental health team said they continue to commission the STEP service.

A spokesman said: “As with any commission this will be subject to review in the final year of the contract.”

Blackburn with Darwen CCG added: “A reminder has been sent to all GP practices in response to difficulties making appointments in person and registering with a practice with no ID/fixed abode.”