What would you do to help a homeless person?

With an already overstrecthed NHS, and increasing amounts of homelessness in the UK, Bethann Siviter wants to know how the two can run seamlessly

With an already overstretched NHS, and increasing amounts of homelessness in the UK, Bethann Siviter wants to know how the two can run seamlessly

A homeless man was sitting out front of the supermarket. He had a visible burn on his hand. I bought him some lunch, and asked him about the wound. It was infected, looked painful, and needed care. I cleaned and dressed it (first aid kits are great things to have) and asked if he could see his GP.

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‘I don’t have an address,’ he replied. So, if you don’t have a home, and don't have a GP, how can you have a home visit from a nurse? He'd have to go to casualty for help. Community nurses are cheaper.

What is community nursing?

Why can’t we commission services for those who need, but can’t access, help through usual routes? There was once a brilliant NHS refugee service in Birmingham, with coordinated physical and mental health services, referrals for benefits, to council services. Have we got services like this for people who find themselves (for whatever reasons) disadvantaged by homelessness? I did a quick internet search. I didn’t find much outside the voluntary sector, and those I found didn’t have dedicated health services.

The community isn’t about houses, it’s about people. Community nursing isn’t a privilege earned through affluence, it’s a right granted by need (not want, but need). Who needs us more than someone who has nothing, not even a roof over their heads?

Individual faith choices aside, Britain claims to be a Christian country. Doing for the 'least of your brethren' and 'remember the good Samaritan who helped instead of walking past.' These are values our nation claims to have. Where is the evidence that suggests nursing ensures homeless people get basic healthcare? Mental health help? A dressing on a burn? Or do we only care for those who make it easy?

What can you do to reach out?

The NHS is stripped to the bones, but can you find a way to reach out to homeless people? Sure you can. Will you? Well, that’s a different question.

What defines community to you?

About the author

Bethann Siviter is an independent nursing consultant in Birmingham

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