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World Homeless Health Day 2021 - The Community Response

Published: 8th October 2021

Sunday 10 October 2021 marks World Homeless Day.

The day, which was first recognised in 2010, is intended to increase awareness of people who experience homelessness and provides an opportunity for the community to get involved in responding to this issue. To mark the day, we’re taking a closer look at CLCH’s involvement in the community response.

CLCH delivers a Homeless Health service in Central and North West London, where there is a large homeless population. This open access, outreach service provides counselling services, care and treatment for physical health problems and advocacy and screening advice and support. This is delivered through a number of settings, including on the street, in daycentres, hostels and specialist GP practices.

Over the years, staff in the team have developed new initiatives, services and opportunities to support the most vulnerable people in our communities, who often face difficulties accessing healthcare.

Rosa Ungpakorn is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in the service’s Westminster team. Westminster has the highest numbers of homeless people in London, which is one of the reasons why Rosa designed the Westminster Street Nurse project, providing on the spot care clinical assessments, diagnosis and treatment for a range of health conditions.

One patient who was treated through the project commented: “The nurses were fantastic, they came and dressed my hands and my head on the streets, the care put into that really saved my life. They would never give up when I would tell them to leave me alone. They became a stable element in my life when my life was unstable."

A six-month review of Westminster Street Nurse showed an increase of over 400% in the number of patients seen via street outreach when compared to the same period in the previous year. It confirmed that people experiencing homelessness were in need of proactive engagement by health services, with 50% of them not registered with a general practitioner (GP), and 80% not accessing homeless health service clinics.

The innovation and impact of Rosa’s initiative resulted in her winning the RCNi Advanced Nurse Practitioner Award 2020.

The Trust’s Homeless Health team in Westminster is also very committed to offering an environment for student nurses to practice relevant skills and develop an understanding of the professional role of the nurse.

Dominic Lenaghan, Lead Nurse, explained: “Students get a unique placement working in homeless health, where they have the opportunity to learn from advanced nurses whilst also learning about changing attitudes towards marginalised communities.”

The team’s passion and dedication impressed judges at the 2020 Student Nursing Times Awards, where they were named as winners of the Community category for the Student Placement of the Year Award.

Over the last 18 months, our Homeless Health Service has had to quickly respond to the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic, and the increased risk that homeless people face of getting the virus.

In March 2021, staff in the Homeless Health service worked in partnership with the charity and voluntary sector to set up a vaccination clinic at The Passage and The Connection at St Martin’s, where they vaccinated hundreds of patients.

In May, the clinic was visited by the Minister for COVID-19 vaccines, Nadhim Zawahi; Minister for Rough Sleeping and Homelessness, Eddie Hughes; and Nickie Aiken, MP for Cities of London and Westminster, who went on to thank everyone involved in the service for ensuring that the most vulnerable people in our society are protected from COVID.

On the achievements that the Trust has made in improving health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness, Billy Hatifani (Deputy Chief Nurse), said "Our Homeless Health service is a small nurse - consultant led team that successfully earned a well deserved reputation of excellence in the provision of Homeless Health Care to our local population.

"The last 12 months have been a challenge for all clinical teams but the team have risen to the challenge and worked in partnership with other NHS providers and the third sector to support the everyone in campaign and other initiatives such as the successful flu and COVID-19 vaccination programmes. The team continue to deliver outstanding care to the most vulnerable in our society during a time of great uncertainty. 

"Join us on the 10th of October as we mark World Homeless Day. This annual campaign aims to educate people about homeless issues, celebrate and support good practice happening locally, and highlight local issues."

Access to services is one of the four priority areas of the Trust’s Promoting Equality and Tackling Inequality Strategy.

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