Learning through adversity: healthcare for people who are homeless
Health can be one of our most valuable possessions. We toast to people’s ‘health’, and when we wish them ‘health, wealth and happiness’, health comes first. At the moment, with COVID-19 circulating, the importance of health is perhaps clearer than ever.
In this country, we’re lucky to have an excellent healthcare system – the NHS – with well-qualified and hard-working staff, who have been rightly praised for going above and beyond in response to the current situation.
But despite this, we know that some of the people most at risk of serious health conditions – including COVID-19 – don’t always receive the treatment they need. People who are homeless, for example, are four times more likely to visit A&E or be admitted to hospital than the general public.
The Health Bus charity, based in Bournemouth, is a great, innovative resource that brings healthcare to homeless people who need it, so they’re more likely to be able to access the support they need.
The bus is currently open four mornings a week in Bournemouth. It’s a partnership of different organisations coming together to support people who are homeless locally.
Sessions have been running differently to ‘normal times’ with talking to people on the phone first and using PPE when meeting people in person, and then cleaning between consultations.
One of our main focuses when talking to people who use The Health Bus is to encourage them to register with a GP so they can access the healthcare they need when they need it.
You’ve probably seen that, with COVID-19, local authorities and charities made huge efforts to ensure people were housed safely, so they could protect themselves from catching the virus.
This offered a great opportunity for the NHS, the Health Bus, and other charities to check in with people to find out if they needed any additional healthcare, and connect them with the right support and treatment.
This isn’t just about the people who checked now, but is part of a broader research project to make sure we know what support people need – how we can improve health services both locally and further afield.
We at Public Health Dorset have given over £5,000 to help fund this ‘needs assessment’ project. The assessment is being done through the summer by researchers and medical professionals in London to help us collate and analyse the results so we get a broad picture of people’s needs.
This is just one part of the wider work going on at the moment to support people across the county. For example, staff from across the NHS and local charities have come together to improve testing for Hepatitis C and enable people to access new, life-changing treatments.
While COVID-19 is challenging for all of us, we are doing our best to ensure that we learn from everything we do, and come out of this stronger and better prepared to help people in the future.
The Health Bus is currently fundraising for a new bus which will meet infection control standards, but in the moment they’re exploring other options for the short term, working the council and local hospitals to use vehicles that have already been kitted out for similar work.
Find out about the latest fundraising campaign and other aspects of The Health Bus work.