Accessing healthcare is something most of us take for granted, with 24-hour GP services, walk-in centres and NHS Direct. Should we need medical attention, it is there. But a team at Broadmead Medical Centre in Bristol has been commended nationally for its work in recognising and treating the vulnerable and hard to reach groups in the city, and was runner-up at the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) Group awards.
Aged just 18, Julie Clifford found herself homeless with nowhere to go, but she now has a place to live and is receiving medical care and advice after a chance encounter with a nurse. Nurse practitioner Amanda Murray and the nursing team make fortnightly visits to the Bristol Foyer where she provides many health services including blood pressure checks, lung function tests, sexual health screening and smoking cessation advice.
On one of these visits, Amanda and the team also spent time in ‘Safe Place’, a centre for the under-25s within the Foyer where Amanda performed a random blood test on Julie, alerting her to take further tests; when those results came back, Julie was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She is now receiving treatment for her condition with noticeable results, including her blood-sugar levels dropping and weight loss too.
Talking about the scheme, Julie said: “I think that it’s a really good idea, if the nurses hadn’t been there that day, I wouldn’t have found out that I had diabetes. I went there for something else and other people were getting their blood sugar checked so I thought I’d get mine checked too.”
But Julie might not have been aware of her illness had it not been for Amanda’s visit to the centre that day.
Based at the Broadmead Medical Centre, where the clinical staff see between 600 and 800 patients a week since their opening in summer 2009, the clinical team have been reaching out to the vulnerable population of the city – focussing on homeless people that would not be registered with a GP or would often visit emergency services. So far they have enrolled 113 patients based at hostels, but the team’s work also goes to homeless patients.
The team at the centre first got in contact with Walsingham House, a 15-bed service that treats people with addictions where they now run a weekly session for nurses to bring healthcare to the residents. The outreach scheme has now been rolled out to several homeless shelters and accommodation across the city.
Nurse practitioner Amanda Murray said: “We go to the centres and treat the vulnerable that are often unable to access healthcare services due to their chaotic lifestyles. The residents are often nervous at first, due to their backgrounds. A lot of the women come from violent relationships and so it can take a bit of time for them to feel comfortable, but many of them will eventually access healthcare themselves.”
The team behind the scheme were shortlisted from 300 entries to the final three and were runners up in the ‘primary care team of the year’ category at the BMJ Group Awards hosted in May.
As well as taking healthcare to those living in hostels and the homeless, the staff at Broadmead Medical Centre have helped to raise funds for Phoenix Place to opt into the FareShare scheme that delivers food near to its expiry date to hostels and vulnerable people. This means that those people in hostels who are waiting for their benefits to come through will have access to food. The funds were raised by a generous charity donation from an organisation with close ties to Redcliffe, but who wish to remain anonymous.
For further information, please contact Gemma Myers on 0117 984 1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Text and photos provided by NHS Bristol. May 2011
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