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Nurses vow to support the homeless in Gloucester

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 30, 2013

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SPECIALIST hospital healthcare teams are working with Gloucester’s homeless in a bid to help raise average life expectancy.

Currently, a rough sleeper is not expected to survive beyond their 42nd birthday, compared to an average of 74 for men and 79 for women.

The Gloucester Emergency Accommodation Resource (GEAR) charity is working with Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on a six-month pilot scheme.

Following a successful bid for Government funding, the charity is working with clinicians to bridge the gap between hospital and primary care for homeless people.

Nicky Bale, operations manager at GEAR, said: “An in-reach team has begun going into hospitals to assess the accommodation needs of people taken in off the streets.

“Once treated, we will help them into temporary accommodation for a minimum of three days. One of our nurses and an outreach worker will go out and assess their needs to find out how they can be helped.”

Acute medicine consultant Dr Pippa Medcalf has been working on a national scheme to help develop standards of care for the homeless after hospital.

It was while she was working with the Royal College of Physicians that Pippa started thinking about how hospitals here could improve care in Gloucestershire.

The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust met with GEAR, and discovered the charity had already applied for a Government grant to do exactly that and the partnership was born.

Pippa said: “Hospital staff are here to help people when they need it and it can be frustrating when we have to discharge patients when they have nowhere to go due to a lack of local facilities.

“Feedback suggested they felt that no one cared and that they had been poorly treated.” Bearing in mind both sides have had poor experiences in the past, we hope the trial will improve experiences for all concerned and will empower staff to be able to help.”

GEAR’s Steve Pankhurst will be leading the work and is available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

He will be visiting ward areas and providing teaching for junior doctors over the next six months.

Pippa has high hopes for the future of the project.

She said: “The trial is initially for six months but we are hoping it will demonstrate the need for ongoing funding. At the moment Steve is available during core working hours on week days, but we would like to be able to extend support to a 24/7 service.”

A homeless healthcare team from Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust has also joined the project.

Melanie Getgood, from the team, said: “Our homeless healthcare team has been working with Gloucestershire hospitals and GEAR since July on this project to improve discharges, and we can already see the impact has been fantastic. The GEAR project has funded one of our specialist nurses for an extra day a week to go into Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.”, which will make a real difference to how much support we can offer when people leave hospital.”

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