London Housing Foundation has supported the London Network of Nurses and Midwives in Homelessness for some time, sponsoring their annual conference and helping with running costs. The network has been very involved through the COVID-19 pandemic and we asked Samantha Dorney-Smith of the network to tell us what they had been doing.
How Everyone Stayed In – Nurses, Health Visitors and Allied Professionals on the Inclusion Health Frontline During Covid-19
The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) response to homelessness has been well documented, with the ‘Everyone In’ programme receiving positive media reports across the board, and having been thought to have saved many lives.
Across the UK 15,000 people experiencing all types of homelessness were brought in to enable self-isolation, with about 5,000 of these being in London.1
Less well known, however, has been the part played by nurses, health visitors, Drs and Allied Health professionals (many of them volunteers) in helping to bring homeless people in safely, supporting those people to stay in, helping to evidence health and support needs for appropriate move on, and highlighting worsening health inequalities where these have occurred.
For example, all rough sleepers brought into hotels in London were clinically triaged to ensure they did not have Covid symptoms, and carefully cohorted to ensure they were put in a hotel with an appropriate level of support for their health needs. This triage work was mostly undertaken by health care practitioner volunteers – some practitioners heading out on to the street with a thermometer and clipboard to triage from a makeshift desk, others doing telephone triage via a telephone interpreter at 6am or late at night for someone found by an outreach worker. The UCLH Find and Treat team then staffed a Covid Care hotel, alongside Medicins Sans Frontier, for clients found to have Covid 19.2 This approach led to much lower levels of Covid infection in homeless people that in some countries.3
Local specialist mental health services had to adapt rapidly, for example to enable the assessment of many people with mental health issues who had never consented to mental health assessment before. Similarly, a new addiction service, the Homeless Hotels Drug and Alcohol Support Service (HDAS-London), was set up to ensure clients with drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms were supported effectively, and enabled to access appropriate addictions treatment easily. Nicotine replacement therapy and vapes were made widely available to further assist clients with their self-isolation. Primary care in reach services were provided, at a time when many NHS services were becoming inaccessible.
And in other areas, inclusion health professionals were called on in other ways. For example, Health Visitors have been reaching vulnerable families via food banks during the pandemic, and accessing phones and laptops for families. In some cases, these have been the only professionals maintaining contact where, for example, an increase in domestic violence has been a real risk.4
The London Network of Nurses and Midwives Homelessness Group aims to capture these experiences, and celebrate them, in their first on-line symposium. This clinical network has been supported by London Housing Foundation for many years.
This event has also kindly been sponsored by London Housing Foundation, as well as the NHSE Safeguarding team, and is being delivered in partnership with Groundswell, who provide the Expert by Experience perspective. The aim is to learn from these experiences for the future. The group knows that our members have been absolutely pivotal in not just getting ‘Everyone In’, but also in helping them to stay in and be cared for.
This event will profile the work of some of the excellent individuals involved in service delivery, but also involve everyone in reflecting and learning from what has been in many cases, an amazingly positive experience.
Please join us on 30th September 14.00-16.30. Tickets are available via Eventbrite here