Liz and Helen are Homeless Outreach nurses from the Urban Village Medical Practice (UVMP). They’ve recently returned to our Beacon Support Centre to provide vital healthcare to our friends. We asked Liz how it felt for her to be back

Welcome back! How have you found returning to the Beacon

“We are totally and utterly delighted to be back, it feels extremely positive to us as a GP's practice to be back in a setting that’s more accessible to people experiencing homelessness. Our main goal at the UVMP  is to make primary healthcare more accessible to everyone, and being back in the Beacon Support Centre helps us to do that.

"The Beacon is a positive, uplifting environment so it is lovely to be back and see old and new faces and be in an environment where there is such enthusiasm to help people.”

Were you still able to help people experiencing homelessness during lockdown?

 “At UVMP we were like all GP practices trying to balance providing healthcare while not spreading infections and putting people at risk. We did a lot of over the phone consultations for people experiencing homelessness who were housed in the hotels by the council. But a lot didn’t benefit from this due to a lack of access to phones and the internet. Sadly there was also a misconception among many that there was no way to have face to face healthcare, which wasn’t true. As a result we have seen a lot of undiagnosed healthcare problems which could have been treated more easily if people had come in sooner. Being back in the Beacon we can see people in a safe environment again.”

What work have you been doing since you’ve been back?

“We have the awesome opportunity to deliver flu jabs; this is such important work this year as we have the opportunity to help prevent people catching a double infection of the flu and COVID19 at the same time which would be very dangerous. The flu vaccine is a very time sensitive vaccine with the flu being a seasonal illness. Barnabus has reopened its health and wellbeing centre in the Beacon at the right time and we have already started giving out flu vaccines to rough sleepers this week.

Helen has an expertise in Hepatitis C, she has been able to really help people with this as Hepatitis C treatments have changed a lot in the past few years. Previously the treatment was intrusive, often needing multiple courses of drugs that had nasty side effects. Now it’s a simple short course of drugs with no side effects and is a really effective treatment, Helen is an expert in these new treatments and will be able to help our friends with this.

We have felt that we are able to see lots of people in a safe way at the Beacon with a manageable demand for our support. Despite the constraints we’re working under with social distancing we’re able to do really good work.”