HOMELESS people and rough sleepers can now get vital medical care at a dedicated GP surgery just open in a homeless hotel in Taunton.
A space at 56-bed Lindley House, in East Reach, has been turned into an in-house surgery by homeless charity Arc, which supports around 200 people a night in 15 properties in Taunton, Sedgemoor and West Somerset.
A number patients have already visited a GP there.
Arc chief executive Justin Roxburgh said: “Arc has understood for a long time that access to primary health care has been a struggle for rough sleepers.
“Expanding our partnership with Taunton Vale Healthcare, we are now delighted to launch this new facility.
“With the benefit of donated income and repurposing a building in our ownership, we have developed a purpose-built GP surgery and treatment room that provides an outstanding modern medical facility.
“We designed it in partnership with our GP to ensure it had everything needed and funded it entirely ourselves.”
Arc has worked alongside Taunton Vale Healthcare, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and Public Health (Somerset) in a bid to address health inequalities for those experiencing homelessness.
Arc clients will soon be able to get flu jabs at Lindley House, funded by Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group.
Sandra Corry, director of quality and nursing at Somerset CCG, said: “We are proud to be part of the work to address health inequalities, adapting our services to provide healthcare for those who come from a variety of backgrounds to ensure everyone is able to access healthcare when they need it.
“We know that it can be more challenging for people who are homeless to access healthcare like getting their flu jab.
“It is especially important as the temperature decreases over winter that people who are sleeping outside are protected against flu, which is why we’re funding free flu clinics at designated hostels across Somerset in the coming weeks. These clinics are being operated jointly between Taunton Vale Healthcare and our pharmacy partners at Day Lewis.”
As well as a GP service, the clinic and treatment room will be available to other healthcare providers offering support in areas such as mental health, sexual health and more.
Andy Lloyd, from the Public Health team in Somerset, said: “As a partnership we are determined to reduce the health inequalities experienced by those who are homeless or sleeping rough.
“The development of a Homelessness Healthcare Service for Somerset is a key feature of our current work plan.
“Together we are developing a nursing outreach service which is in addition to the already increased testing and treatment of hepatitis and the comprehensive Homeless Flu programme across Somerset this winter.”
Arc’s GP Surgery is the start of plans to create a wellbeing hub, The Reach Centre, where other agencies will provide drop-in sessions, allowing homeless people to access a range of services in a more flexible manner.