We have been privileged to support the HealthBus (www.healthbus.co.uk)for the past two years. Our Director Chris Hughes is the Treasurer for the dynamic charity and offers his experience and insight into why there is a perceived ongoing struggle for rough sleepers (homeless) to access good Health Care services in Dorset.

“I never thought this sort of care was available whilst I was homeless” commented John, a rough sleeper at the Bournemouth HealthBus. Despite his ill health this was the first time in years that he had seen a doctor. Much needed GP services will reach people like John on the streets this winter via the HealthBus.
This access to health care and appropriate support for people sleeping rough offers hope. Hope of
recovery from ill health, addictions and homelessness.Rough Sleeping is the most extreme form of homelessness and those on the streets have worse health than people who are housed.
More than 8 out 10 people have mental health issues and at least one physical health condition resulting in a 30 year reduction in life expectancy. Figures for homeless in Dorset are considerably worse than the national averages for homeless elsewhere
Health problems can go unchecked until it is too late or an emergency develops, often at great cost
to the individual and health services. The use of drugs and alcohol may contribute to someone
becoming homeless and also become a means of coping with rough sleeping if no other help is
People sleeping rough are far less likely to register with a GP than the housed population and far
more likely to attend A+E for care that could have been provided more appropriately elsewhere.
There are many barriers to engaging with traditional GP surgeries whilst homeless
People report that because of their appearance, behaviour and hygiene they are sometimes asked to leave waiting rooms. They are frequently told that they cannot register without an address. If they do register,
their ailments or lack of funds for travel often make attending appointments impossible. Not owning
a working mobile phone to book appointments and keeping appointments are further challenges
whilst sleeping rough.
The HealthBus GP Service for rough sleepers was launched in December 2016 by Dr Maggie Kirk of
Providence Surgery, along with myself and other colleagues to overcome these barriers.
This pioneering service has been described as invaluable and life-saving. It enables timely and relatively low cost interventions and preventative healthcare at the point of need thus saving the NHS thousands of pounds.
The current service,supported by Providence Surgery, St Stephen’s Church Howard Hughes Business Management Services, Green Tambourine and the YMCA, is charitably funded to run one morning surgery each week. With more funding more rough sleepers could be reached.
Over 200 people have benefitted from appointments at the HealthBus in 2017. For many it has been
their first contact with healthcare in months, years and sometimes decades. The service works with
local providers of homeless services, connecting individuals with the help they need to move on and
become housed. It is essential to address health and addiction issues as people are housed to
improve their chances of remaining housed and moving on to productive lives.
Following a recent visit to the HealthBus, local MP Conor Burns wrote in support of the service, that
it should be funded with NHS funding and extended “throughout the conurbation of Bournemouth,
Poole and Christchurch and then more widely into Dorset”.
Howard Hughes undertakes a vital role in assisting the charity with its Governance, Financial and Commercial relationship management and helps drive the issue across Dorset and hopes that Local Business will be happy to explore an opportunity to link and support with this most valuable cause.
Press release from the Echo …https://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/17195166.plea-for-nhs-funding-for-essential-rough-sleepers-healthbus-service/