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Tuition urged to deal with plight of homeless people.


MEDICAL students yesterday demanded lessons in dealing with health problems facing homeless people who they say are being failed by the NHS.

Universities should provide tuition to help the doctors of tomorrow treat society's "most vulnerable group", said Neil Datta from the Medical Students International Network.

Problems affecting the homeless include trench fever, TB, drug and alcohol addictions and mental illness.

The situation is made worse because they do not have a permanent address and so cannot register with a GP.

"Homelessness often forces people to experience extreme deprivation, exposure and stress, which together comprise the unhealthiest conditions in which to live, " said Mr Datta.

"Despite this there appears to be a blatant contradiction in that those who experience the largest amount of health problems still have the least availability of resources and support.

"As it stands homelessness and health care are not adequately covered within the medical curriculum and tomorrow's doctors shall continue to possess inappropriate skills and education to deal with society's most vulnerable group of people."

He told the Big Issue that homelessness representatives should be appointed at every medical school to push for more training in dealing with patients who sleep rough.

Meanwhile a health expert yesterday urged the NHS to learn lessons from the US health care system.

Kieran Walshe, senior research fellow at Birmingham University's health services management centre, said the UK should adopt many of the policy innovations found across the Atlantic.

Writing in the Journal for the Institute of Economic Affairs, he said the NHS should encourage more groups to be involved in shaping health service policy.

"In the UK central government and its Department of Health have almost monopolistic power in health policy, " he said.

By contrast, in the US consumer and industry groups and large independent philanthropic foundations all have a say, ensuring that more checks and balances are built into policy formation.

But he added that any imitation of US practices in Britain should take account of the "differences in culture and values" between the two countries.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 10, 2001
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