A team of healthcare professionals are now available to treat rough sleepers at Yew House, the Homeless Day Service. The Homeless Healthcare Team includes a GP, nurse, mental health nurse and clinical psychologist, as well as health navigators and peer mentors who can help users find and access the wider support and services that they might need.
The service has been set up using money awarded from Public Health England (PHE) to help improve the physical and mental health of rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping. It's a partnership between Portsmouth City Council and a number of statutory and voluntary organisations including Solent NHS Trust and East Shore GP Partnership.
Kath Jones, the Modern Matron heading up the Homeless Healthcare Team, said; "Everyone is entitled to healthcare and the response we've had in the first few weeks of being established has been really encouraging. I anticipated it would take time for us to build the trust of these patients but they've been really grateful to have access to healthcare within the familiarity of the Homeless Day Service. They like that it’s not a clinical environment as some haven’t had a positive experience in GP surgeries or A&E. We're able to give them longer appointments so that we can discuss multiple healthcare concerns, including their medication history, and also carry out clinical work such as taking bloods, providing necessary injections or vaccinations and dressing wounds.
"Most of our work so far has been around respiratory, musculoskeletal or skin conditions, which is what you'd expect to see in those having to sleep rough. We've also been able to help people get back onto regular medication for long-term health conditions, which they've been struggling to access, and provide them with documentation to help them obtain benefits that they're entitled to. The aim is to have other professionals join us for clinics at the Homeless Day Service, for example dentists, opticians, podiatrists, sexual health specialists and hepatology nurses so that patients can receive a full range of support."
Some initial success stories include a patient that a health navigator supported to access hospital treatment before a condition became more serious and someone who has been helped into temporary accommodation so that he can attend alcohol rehabilitation sessions and improve his health and wellbeing.
Cllr Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at Portsmouth City Council, said; "I'm so pleased to see the service launched and that its first few weeks have already seen some positive outcomes. We've been given a huge opportunity with this funding and it's great to see the team so determined to make it a success. I'm looking forward to seeing more about how this initiative is improving the health and wellbeing of rough sleepers over the coming months."
The Homeless Healthcare Team is running as a one year pilot.
Other activity to support those dealing with homelessness in Portsmouth includes an outreach team to help rough sleepers find support, extra beds in severe weather and over Christmas, a worker based in libraries to help homeless people who use these venues, a day service providing food, showers and laundry facilities and a new navigators team to help rough sleepers moving into more settled accommodation.