By Liz Crudgington
A pilot project aimed at helping improve access to health and social care for homeless people has launched at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
A dedicated team has been set up, featuring a specialist GP, dedicated homelessness nurse and a housing specialist from charity Porchlight.
They will work together with staff at the hospital to identify people who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or in temporary accommodation, and anyone else who finds it difficult to access health services.
GP Dr Helen Burnett, who is clinical lead for the team, said: “We are delighted this initiative has started. Our initial assessment of setting up this service showed that there is a real need locally to treat people who feel they are missing out on care.
“We look after all our patients with respect and dignity, and help people move on from homelessness.”
The team – Dr Burnett, homelessness adult safeguarding practitioner Kendal Beasley, and Lorraine Seago from Porchlight – will work with patients and agencies to ensure they have access to the support they need.
They will create bespoke care plans for each person, which could include supporting an application to local housing teams, referrals to alcohol and substance misuse teams and mental health teams if appropriate, and working to ensure a safe discharge from hospital.
They can also support people to access benefit payments and legal help, ensure they are registered with a GP for ongoing care, and reconnect them with family and friends.
Kendal said: “We know that people who are homeless attend emergency departments more often, may be admitted more often, and can often stay in hospital for longer.
“They have higher rates of physical and mental health problems, and often, although not always, have issues related to substance abuse.
“Our team want to identify and support people who are homeless and who frequently attend hospital, to help them access the valuable community support that is available and to address their health, housing and social care needs.”
The pilot runs until 30 September, when it will be reviewed.