Hospital care extended for homeless patients leaving Royal London

Doctors and welfare workers are extending care of homeless patients in London’s East End after they leave hospital to reduce the chance of being re-admitted with the same medical problems if they end up back on the streets.

It is part of a trial being run at the Royal London in Whitechapel where all welfare needs are being assessed before patients are discharged, such as social, medical, housing and psychological.

The hospital’s own Homeless team with its dedicated GP and nurse is liaising with organisations such as housing bodies, social services or a patient’s hostel manager.

“This is joining up the hospital with the outside world, rather than everyone working in silos,” said the project’s principal investigator, Prof Graham Foster.

“It aims to address the gulf that sometimes exists between primary, secondary, social and housing care.

“We all have resources working independently—now this clinical trial is measuring how we can join them up to reduce re-admissions.”

The hospital’s Homeless team is holding weekly meetings with hostel staff, housing officers, social workers and community, psychiatric and alcohol liaison nurses where patients’ care plans are worked out.

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Jim Bowes, 43, became homeless when he had to stop work as a hod-carrier on building sites after serious health problems and has been living at the Salvation Army’s Booth House hostel in Whitechapel since November.

“I needed surgery to fix broken cartilidge in my knees,” Jim explained. “But doctors couldn’t do the operation because I was living on the streets and had nowhere to go after surgery.

“I didn’t have a clean place to get better—the risk of infection was too great.”

He didn’t know where to go for help with housing. Now hospital officials are talking to housing teams and working together more.

Around 250 patients are involved in the trial which has been running for 13 months. It has already helped dozens of vulnerable patients so far.