We believe that everybody has the right to access basic medical care. Unfortunately, one of the biggest difficulties rough sleepers face is registering with a GP. With no fixed abode, homeless people are often turned away from walk-in clinics, or discharged from A&E facilities without any patient care or follow-up.

It’s not just physical illnesses we deal with. Uncertainty, mental stress, loneliness and the effects of abuse and addiction can all have a huge impact on the health of our homeless friends. That’s why we work in partnership with Urban Village Medical Practice to provide basic health care and education at our Beacon Drop-in Centre.

Our visitors can get a health assessment and referrals for Hepatitis B, flu and TB vaccines, as well as access to cardio health, dental treatment, podiatry, mental health and drug and alcohol services. We also refer people to the specialist Respiratory Nurse for underlying health issues such as COPD, or the Tissue Viability Service for people who have wounds or abscesses. These referrals can massively improve a person’s quality of life and help stop everyday conditions from becoming life threatening.

Meet our nurse – Liz Thomas

Our part-time Homeless Outreach Nurse holds Health and Wellness clinics during the week at our Beacon Drop-in Centre. She also holds a weekly Health Café with visiting speakers from specialist services. We asked Liz a few questions about the work she does with Barnabus.

How long have you been working with Barnabus, and what do you do?

“I started my clinics in autumn 2017. For the first few weeks I was concentrating on flu vaccinations. I met lots of people, but the appointments were short and I was unable to go into too much detail with the patients. As time went on the appointments got longer and more in-depth and I got to know people better. Since then, I have registered lots of people with Urban Village Medical Practice and made referrals to podiatry, dentist, drug and alcohol services, as well as sexual health clinics and the leg ulcer clinic.”

What’s it like working with Barnabus?

“I find this work very rewarding; every day is different – it’s never quiet! I feel like I have really been able to make a difference. Even something as simple as treating feet brings immediate relief to patients, it can be very relaxing and helps to build trust quickly. I find that people will open up about other problems during this type of treatment.”

Any big achievements whilst working with Barnabus?

“There were a small number of cases of Hepatitis A in Manchester this spring. This is usually a minor illness, but it can be serious for people with other health conditions, and an outbreak presents a serious risk for rough sleepers. Public Health England commissioned Urban Village to deliver Hepatitis A vaccines to rough sleepers in Manchester. Public Health England have commended our achievements in preventing what could have been a serious outbreak. Approximately a third of the vaccines given to rough sleepers in the city were given in the Barnabus nurse clinic. This shows the significant contribution of the clinic to delivering health care to the city’s rough sleeper population.”

What’s your clinic like at the Beacon?

“The clinic room in the Beacon seems to have a very positive effect on our patients; it’s light, bright, clean, spacious and private. Privacy is something that is very rare in the lives of our friends. Most of the people I see have protective armour on most of the time – it’s part of their coping mechanism. When they come into the clinic room they relax, smile, take off their armour and feel safer to reveal themselves. I can often see them putting the armour back on as they leave the room.”

What’s the best thing about your job?

“The best thing about working at Barnabus is being able to provide healthcare in a setting where homeless people are already being befriended, welcomed and cared for. This makes them feel at ease and in the right frame of mind to address their health needs, which means I can engage in meaningful conversations with them.”