How one nurse made a huge impact in police nursing to become an award winner
'It only takes one nurse to make a huge impact,’ says award winner and police forensic custody nurse Eric Teague-Hellon
Gary was a regular detainee in police custody, arrested up to three times a week times per week. Opiate dependent, he was injecting in to his veins but after a ‘bad time’ in the emergency department, would no longer seek the medical attention – dressings and IV antibiotics – he needed for chronic leg ulcers.
‘When he came into custody his clothing was stuck to the open ulcers,’ says police forensic custody nurse Eric Teague-Hellon. ‘Being homeless, he has poor hygiene and no access to clean clothing or a bath/shower. Each time I saw him his legs had got worse.’
Gary was typical of the people presenting in custody, often having committed a low level crime to find shelter for the night and receive medical help.
‘Detainees are more likely to suffer drug and alcohol related problems as well as a mental illness than the rest of the population, which can include self-harming, psychosis, anxiety and depression,’ says Mr Teague-Hellon.
‘Their chaotic lifestyles may also mean that conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic problems are poorly managed.’
Finding a solution
Frustrated with being unable to address these patients’ needs during the 30-minute assessment he completes at Staffordshire Northern Area Custody Facility, Mr Teague-Hellon decided to set up a medical outreach team to reach these vulnerable people in local night shelters.
‘Their chaotic lifestyle means they will not attend formal medical facilities for help,’ he says. ‘I see them in their own environment, where they feel more in control and therefore accept treatment and support.’
At the clinics, and in his own time, Mr Teague-Hellon assesses and treats a wide range of medical conditions, providing dressings for leg ulcers and signposting or referring to other medical or mental health agencies. He also offers a well man/woman check up service and supportive escorts to the emergency department or walk-in centre when required.
For his commitment to his patients and the extensive scope of the nursing care he delivers to this vulnerable group Mr Teague-Hellon has been named winner of the Superdrug-sponsored community award category of the RCNi Nurse Awards, the profession’s top accolade.
He also provides foodbank vouchers for those in crisis. ‘I had an idea to provide food for those arrested for shoplifting to feed their families and contacted every one of the 16 foodbank outlets in the city and arranged to become an agent and signatory.’
His relationship with police officers has been central to getting the programme off the ground and making it work effectively.
‘At first they were concerned about adding to their workload and could not be seen to be rewarding people for committing crime, with food vouchers for example. I explained that voucher allocation would be completely nurse led according to assessed need. I also explained that we were increasing the risk of a death in custody as the health of these vulnerable people was deteriorating. Police officers are now happy that we can refer to a place of safety.’
There is no doubt this work is making an enormous difference to the lives of these vulnerable people.
‘We are now able to show that my interventions are having a positive impact'
Evaluation of the medical outreach clinics undertaken for the first three months of this year showed that of a cohort of 20 people detained in custody, only three continued to offend and one was recalled to prison.
‘We are now able to show that my interventions are having a positive impact, as the arrest rate of the people I see in the night shelters has significantly dropped and, in most cases, there has been no re-offending.’
There were four successful mental health referrals, two surgical admissions, seven people regularly attending the dressing clinic and three have been accommodated in supported housing. More than ten food bank vouchers have been issued per month.
‘The people we were detaining in custody are now accessing mainstream services,’ says Mr Teague-Hellon. ‘They have safe places to sleep, have better personal hygiene and access to diet and fluids.
‘Gary is a regular to the night shelters,’ he adds. ‘I see him weekly. He has a hot shower, choice of new underwear and clean clothing, a hot meal and a warm safe bed. Importantly I change his leg dressings and monitor the healing process.
‘Other than one hospital admission for debridement, which he complied with, Gary is making excellent progress and his legs are healing well. And he has not been back in custody since the end of December 2017.’
Praise for Eric's work
The night shelter co-ordinators are delighted that Mr Teague-Hellon has been recognised by the RCNi Nurse Awards.
Jackie Ambler says: ‘Eric, with some input from colleagues, has provided a really good service to Stoke on Trent churches night shelter, and the rough sleepers that we try and help. All the work Eric has done has been in his own time, as we are an out of hours/overnight facility through the winter months, and sometimes Eric is able to attend to see a guest at very short notice.
‘Eric has been able to help a number of vulnerable guests with wound dressing, leg care due to DVT, prescribing antibiotics and general health and wellbeing checks.
‘Guests have trusted him when they have been unable to trust or access other services regarding their medical needs,’ Kate Halliday adds. ‘I think this is down to Eric's gentle authority and his obvious concern for their mental and physical health.
‘We are so grateful that Eric has been able to help and treat rough sleepers in the city, and we are looking forward to continuing working with him as night shelter progresses.’
The Nurse Awards judges were impressed by the project’s scope and successes and that Mr Teague-Hellon gave up so much of his free time to provide care for homeless people in his community.
‘Mr Teague-Hellon's initiative shows a great deal of dedication and support to a part of the community that can often be overlooked'
Superdrug’s national nurse manager Louise Gordon
Superdrug’s national nurse manager Louise Gordon was on the panel. ‘Superdrug is immensely proud to be sponsoring the Community category of the RCNi Nurse Awards and are delighted that Eric has won,’ she says.
‘His initiative shows a great deal of dedication and support to a part of the community that can often be overlooked. He has genuinely made an impact to many vulnerable people and demonstrated a great collaborative working approach, to make a real difference.
‘He should feel immensely proud of what he has achieved.’
In the future, Mr Teague-Hellon hopes to help others start similar outreach projects.
‘Winning this award shows that a bit of professional dedication can go a long way,’ he says. ‘I strongly believe that every nurse can make a difference, but together we make change.
‘I was on a local radio show because I was a finalist and had several nurses and paramedics volunteering to help my outreach programme. So as well as raising awareness of our community’s most vulnerable people, I hope winning this award will give me the opportunity to take this work further.
‘I want to roll out the platform to every custody facility and provide first class nursing care to our most vulnerable people.
'It only takes one nurse to make a huge impact.’
Meet the other finalists in the community nursing award, sponsored by Superdrug
Alison Bunce, Ardgowan Hospice
Ms Bunce led the creation and development of Compassionate Inverclyde – a collective of organisations and volunteers committed to ensuring nobody dies alone. Ms Bunce has enabled neighbourhoods to develop local solutions and enabled the recruitment of 103 volunteers, who will retain the projects.
Helen Phelan, Bevan Healthcare
Ms Phelan has developed outreach services for homeless people comprising a hospital discharge team, street medicine and a 14-bed intermediate inpatient unit. She has used her audits to improve quality and develop safety procedures. Patients are supported to resolve longstanding and extremely complex issues.
Julia Haynes, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
Concerned about increasing numbers of children not developmentally ready for school, health visitor Julia Haynes created Born to Move. The initiative improves parents’ understanding of the importance of movement and interaction from birth. Ms Haynes’ workshops have been attended by more than 3,000 staff over three years.
Nasser Roheemun, North Middlesex University Hospital
Mr Roheemun, haematology specialist nurse at the Thalassaemia centre in St Ann's Hospital, created a unique home-based treatment model for sickle cell disease and significantly improved the lives of hundreds of patients who previously experienced regular hospital stays.