A BOLTON doctor’s surgery has opened its doors to help vulnerable people as part of a pioneering new project.

The Waters Meeting Health Centre is one of more than 10 GP practices in Greater Manchester that has signed up to the ‘homeless friendly’ scheme.

People living on the streets will be given treatment at GP surgeries taking part in the project to improve access to healthcare.

BARDOC, which runs the town’s out-of-hours practice, has teamed up with social enterprise Beacon GP Care to roll the scheme out across the region.

Chief executive Vicky Riding said: “Patients need to ring the NHS 111 number or their doctor’s surgery to see a doctor at the centre, which is a very good system, but for homeless people they may not even have a phone to call on.

“They are now being provided with information on where to find a GP and can just call in instead.

“It’s really exciting to see it rolled out elsewhere. It’s something so simple but it can really make a difference.”

Last year BARDOC started to hand out survival kits to rough sleepers containing blankets, bottled water and sleeping bags after one of its drivers noticed an increase of people sleeping on the streets.

The packs also contained a list of BARDOC doctor’s surgeries which they could attend for health care.

Non executive director Dr Zahid Chauhan has set up the homeless friendly scheme – inspired by the dementia friendly communities initiative – which will roll the work out to more surgeries and organisations.

Dr Chauhan, from Oldham, believes it will provide homeless people with the help they need before finding themselves in an emergency situation and relying on hospital A&Es.

He explains: “We want to remove the barriers faced by our homeless population.

“A patient who comes to a GP surgery needs to have an address and ID, and if you’re homeless you won’t have these things.

“More than 10 surgeries have pledged to see them without a need for an address or number, and also carry homeless packs.”

A spokesperson for Beacon GP Care added: “People in Bolton and the rest of the region are very big-hearted and community centred, and this scheme reflects that.

“It’s not just about treating people but also signposting to other support and helping get to the root of what caused the homelessness.”

To find out more about the scheme visit www.homelessfriendly.co.uk.

Medical practices involved in the scheme are:

· Dam Head Medical Centre, Blackley, Manchester

· Royton Medical Centre, Royton, Oldham

· Longsight Medical Centre, Longsight, Manchester

· Lime Square Medical Centre, Openshaw, Manchester

· Fallowfield Medical Centre, Fallowfield, Manchester

· Beacon Medical Centre, Victoria Avenue, Blackley

· Medlock Medical Centre, Failsworth, Oldham

· BARDOC out-of-hours, Prestwich walk-in centre, Bury

· The Dale Medical Practice, Rochdale

· BARDOC out-of-hours, Waters Meeting Health Centre, Bolton

The scheme is appearing on an Inside Out North West tonight on BBC One in the North West at 7.30pm.