The staff at St George’s hospital plan to help homeless people off the streets as well as treat their illnesses and injuries.
The team held a launch event on 17 November with Lord Bird, Founder of the Big Issue, and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP for Tooting and Shadow Secretary of State for Mental Health in attendance.
The team will aim to provide support to around 400 homeless people each year.
ER doctor Laura Douglas-Beveridge, who helped set up the scheme and pull the team together, said: “Working in any Emergency Department, you regularly see and treat homeless patients with complex needs who would go back onto the streets.
“And it’s a source of frustration that nothing more could be done, until now, to properly address this.
“Helping to set up this new team has been the highlight of my medical career so far and it’s been great to work with so many colleagues who share a passion for improving health inequality.”
Currently, patients who are homeless are more than twice as likely to be readmitted to hospital in an emergency compared to patients with housing.
With winter being the toughest time of year especially for the homeless, the scheme will be saving many lives this winter.
St George’s has worked closely with homeless charity Pathway to set up a team made up of a GP, specialist nurse, care navigator and two housing advisors.
Homeless people often suffer from multiple health issues and the average death for women experiencing homelessness is 43 years, and for men it’s 46 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
A study of nearly 3,000 homeless patients discharged after an emergency admission from 78 hospitals between 2013 and 2016 revealed that almost 2,000 were readmitted within a year, at almost double the rate of those with homes to go to (ii).
Dr Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at St George’s, said: “It’s been a tough year in the Emergency Department for all the doctors, nurses and everyone working behind the scenes and I am incredibly proud that they still go above and beyond to care for patients.
“I find it inspiring that my colleagues, despite all the pressures they work under, have created this new service to help homeless people, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
South West London Clinical Commissioning Group successfully secured funding from the Department of Health and Social care for this project which will initially be for a 12-month period costing around £360,000.
It will start seeing its first patients from 29 November.