Tooting: How St George's Hospital will help the homeless this winter

  Posted: 19.11.21 at 17:28 by Tommy Joyce

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Homeless people will be helped off the streets – as well as treated for their illness and injuries – by doctors and nurses at St George’s Hospital this winter.

Advisors will work alongside GPs and other clinicians in the Emergency Department to help put a stop to the vicious cycle of readmission by helping to resolve other issues as well as treating injuries.

Emergency doctor Laura Douglas-Beveridge, who helped set up the scheme and pull the team together, said: “Working in any Emergency Department, you regularly see and treat homeless patients with complex needs who would go back onto the streets and it’s a source of frustration that nothing more could be done, until now, to properly address this.

“Helping to set up this new team has been the highlight of my medical career so far and it’s been great to work with so many colleagues who share a passion for improving health inequality.”

Currently, patients who are homeless are more than twice as likely to be readmitted to hospital in an emergency compared to patients with housing.

At a special event to mark the launch of the service, Lord John Bird, the founder of The Big Issue, welcomed the introduction of this new team which aims to provide support to around 400 homeless people each year.

Lord Bird said: “The cause of homelessness is complex but knowing that specialist staff at St George’s are stepping in to help this winter is fantastic.

“Their passion is moving, and I’m sure the support they’ll provide will make a real difference to some of London’s homeless people.”

St George’s has worked closely with homeless charity Pathway to set up a team made up of a GP, specialist nurse, care navigator and two housing advisors.

They will start seeing their first patients from 29 November.

Alex Bax, Chief Executive of Pathway, said: “We are pleased to have been a part of setting up this service at St George’s and it has been inspiring to work with a team who are so clearly committed to caring for some of London’s most vulnerable people.

“Winter is the toughest time of year for people experiencing homelessness, so the fact that the team will start seeing new patients in the next few weeks is great news.”

Homeless people often suffer from multiple health issues and the average death for women experiencing homelessness is 43 years, and for men it’s 46 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Dr Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at St George’s, said: “It’s been a tough year in the Emergency Department – and across the hospital – for all the doctors, nurses and everyone working behind the scenes and I am incredibly proud that they still go above and beyond to care for patients.

“I find it inspiring that my colleagues, despite all the pressures they work under, have created this new service to help homeless people, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“We would like to encourage everyone to do everything possible to keep themselves well this winter including getting their covid-19 and flu vaccines as soon as possible as they are the best protection against both viruses.”

Dr Andrew Murray, local GP and clinical chair for NHS South West London said: “As we head into winter, the NHS, local authorities and community organisations are working together to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in our communities by giving them easier access to the support they need.

“This scheme has the potential to make a hugely positive difference, enabling people experiencing homelessness to lead healthier lives and helping to end the cycle of readmission to hospital.”

South West London Clinical Commissioning Group successfully secured funding from the Department of Health and Social Care for this project which will initially be for a 12-month period costing around £360,000

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