Community health bosses are stepping up their efforts to reach and provide care for homeless people in Brighton and Hove.
From next month professionals will try to help those who are sleeping rough – reckoned to be about 130 at the latest count – as well as those living in seven local hostels.
About a thousand homeless people live in hostels in Brighton and Hove and are required to show a local connection before being offered a bed.
Details of a pilot scheme were shared at Sussex Community NHS Trust’s AGM (annual general meeting) which was held in Crawley.
The trust board and members of the public heard from the senior locality nurse for Brighton and Hove, Mia Cruttenden, and advanced nurse practitioner Sue Winder.
Mia Cruttenden said: “One of our biggest areas of frailty in Brighton and Hove is our homeless population.”
She said that the number was increasing year on year in Brighton and Hove, adding: “People who are homeless are often extremely vulnerable with complex, physical, mental health and substance use needs.”
The growing use of drugs known as legal highs only added to the problems, she said.
“They may be excluded or have difficulty engaging with mainstream services,” she said. “Some of our patients have been excluded by GP surgeries because of their challenging behaviour.
“And they often rely on urgent or emergency care so a high proportion attend the Royal Sussex County Hospital.”
Improving outcomes for homeless people and coming up with a more integrated model of care for homeless people was a key part of the Brighton and Hove Better Care Plan, she added.
A pilot scheme started last year, she said, adding: “The team includes a clinical nurse lead, occupational therapist (OT), physiotherapist and health care assistant.
“We provide an in-reach service to seven hostels and we uncovered unmet health and care needs.
“We supported hostels with setting up occupational therapy groups to engage and build relationships with residents.
“And we provided individual OT and physiotherapy support to facilitate independence.
“They often have conditions which haven’t been well managed and are deteriorating by the time we get to them.”
These included skin and tissue problems, diabetes and breathing problems.
She said that the team worked with others in local doctors’ surgeries, Sussex Police, the rough sleepers team, social workers and others from teams working with homeless people.
She said: “We discuss people who are very vulnerable. We draw up plans and create action points. People are discussed fortnightly due to the risks of death, deteriorating health, serious adverse health and social outcomes, hospital admissions and A&E attendances.
“We agree clear management plans and action points with the aim of improving wellbeing and mitigating the risk of mortality, morbidity and adverse social outcomes.
“The project has moved slightly in terms of reaching out to the street homeless population.”
The extra help will be funded from the public health budget.
Sue Winder said: “It’s the hardest but most satisfying job I’ve ever done. It’s very rewarding, sometimes fun, sometimes very sad but very addictive.”
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