The case of a pregnant woman bourne down to the point of severe mental illness by £50,000 of debt has persuaded the South Chadderton Health Centre to introduce specialised support for those on the verge of eviction.
The practice - South Chadderton Health Centre concern has become one of the first surgeries in the country to promise to be Homeless-Friendly after medics noticed an increase in those coping with drug, alcohol, housing and fiscal problems.
Aside from meaning that any rough sleeper will be treated with dignity, it will offer a friendly ear to those crippled by financial problems and worried that they may lose the roof over their head.
“Our surgery's message to patients has always been “don't sit on your backside and wait for the worst to happen, whether that's because you may have diabetes or you are experiencing hypertension due to stress”” said Dr Anita Sharma, GP at the surgery, “come and speak with your GP including if you are worried about money. Don't let the situation become any worse.”
Created by Oldham practitioner Dr Zahid Chauhan, Homeless-Friendly has become a huge hit with surgeries, hospitals, out-of-hours services, hospices, charities, businesses and even Oldham Athletic Football Club! All have become hubs of information for the homeless, whilst some have staged food banks on their premises. Uniquely, South Chadderton will include the category “homeless” on their new patient health checks – which usually examines family illnesses, BMI and height.
“One of the aims of the programme is to be a confidential support for those experiencing anxiety over debt and losing their home” revealed Dr Chauhan, “sometimes appearances can be deceptive and just because a patient visits the surgery apparently well-dressed, that doesn't mean they are not weighed down by worry over lack of work, mounting debt and even living on the streets.”
The average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is just 47 years-of-age and research has revealed that those experiencing homelessness are reluctant to visit surgeries because they think their lack of permanent address means they won't receive treatment. Consequently, they wait until pain and infection are chronic before turning up at A&E.
“Prevention is a massive part of cure these days” added Dr Chauhan, “whether that be ceasing smoking to curb an emerging chest problem or intervention before a patient becomes dangerously ill with the depression caused by debt and worry. A massive well done to South Chadderton for saying to those most in need including the homeless – you are welcome here!”
The commitment to becoming Homeless-Friendly is just one of a series of initiatives South Chadderton Health Centre is taking to improve health in their community. They recently became the first surgery in Britain to commit to tackling antibiotic resistant infections with the national charity, Antibiotic Research UK.
Learn more about Homeless-Friendly and make your pledge to ensure those of no fixed abode get superb services, by visiting http://www.homelessfriendly.co.uk/
Pictured is Dr Anita Sharma signing the Homeless-Friendly pledge in the presence of the charity's coordinator, Gail Sutcliffe.
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