Caravan dwellers’ health put under spotlight

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Some long-term residents in caravan parks in the East Riding are failing to register with their local GP and then turning to overburdened accident and emergency departments in a crisis.

East Riding councillors were told the number of long-term residents in parks was “unknown”, and it was “difficult to undertake programmes to encourage registration because many of these people were living year-round illegally on the sites and where this was occurring, site owners were often reluctant to engage with the council”.

The issue of people living permanently on sites meant for holiday use recently surfaced in a planning inquiry into a retirement park near Beverley. Residents bought homes at Lakeminster Park under the impression they could live there all-year round, but now fear eviction.

The East Riding Council’s Health, Care and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee was told some residents were staying with their old GP when they moved onto a park, and returning home when they needed medical help.

If that wasn’t possible they were turning to local A&E departments “although this was in many cases an inappropriate use of this service”.

Director of public health Dr Tim Allison said it was better for individuals to register locally not only for their health, but for the local health economy which was funded on the basis of the numbers registered with local GPs. He said for some residents registering locally may not be a top priority because they were going home every so often, while for others there was a concern “it somehow gets their name into the system”.

A survey of caravanners who had registered, in 2010 showed they had higher levels of ill health, much higher levels of smoking and higher levels of respiratory disease.

Dr Allison said: “We have no evidence it is causing people any acute problems with illness, but we think it would be of benefit to local people if more registered.”