The London Pathway project, based at University College Hospital (UCH) in London, is giving homeless people access to proper healthcare and saving the NHS hundreds-of thousands-of-pounds in the process.
The project won the Andy Ludlow homelessness award which promotes innovation and good practice in tackling homelessness in the capital. It is run by London Councils and supported by the boroughs, Communities and Local Government (CLG), the London Housing Federation and Shelter.
The London Pathway uses a dedicated homelessness nurse and GP to make sure that homeless patients get all the care they need – including support after they have left the safety of the hospital. It has reduced admissions of homeless people to UCH by 3.2 days per patient, which equates to savings of £300,000 a year.
UCH admits about 250 homeless patients every year. Homeless patients cost eight times more than the housed population for unscheduled care, use casualty six times more and are admitted four times as often, staying in hospital twice as long. The challenge of treating homeless patients is that they experience ‘tri-morbidity’ – physical and mental ill health and substance misuse.
The key to the success of The London Pathway has been in forging partnerships. Ward rounds by specialists bring together the work of social workers, physiotherapists, drug and alcohol workers, psychiatrists, housing representatives, primary care teams, and discharge sisters; and coordinate care for the complex needs of homeless people.
The London Pathway project beat five other short-listed groups to win the top prize of £25,000. The money will be spent on recruiting care navigators – people who have experience of homelessness who can offer emotional support and assertive outreach for those most in need, and link them up with relevant services.
The project has helped develop support which continues after homeless patients have been discharged, to help them rebuild their lives and ensure their needs are being met in the community.
Dr Nigel Hewett, clinical lead of the homeless team at UCH and medical director of The London Pathway, said: “We are delighted and honoured to have won first prize. The recognition that the Andy Ludlow Award brings will really help as we start to share what we do with others working on homeless healthcare.
“It publicly rewards the incredible dedication of my two London Pathway nurses – Flo Cumberbatch and Trudy Boyce – and all the fantastic staff at UCLH who we work with, and who are trying to turnaround the lives of homeless people.”
Alex Bax, chief executive of the London Pathway said: “Winning this award is fantastic. As a new organisation this kind of recognition will be incredibly helpful as we spread our model to other hospitals and build relationships with others working on homeless healthcare. Key to our model is collaboration and coordination, working with all the agencies that work with the homeless, and using the time a patient is in hospital to try and put them on a better path when they leave.”
London Councils executive member for housing, Mayor Sir Steve Bullock said: “The Andy Ludlow Awards are the only awards of their kind that promote innovation in working to prevent and reduce homelessness in London.
“Success in the awards sets an excellent example to other organisations working to tackle homelessness. In many cases the cash prizes have provided a major boost to the work of previous winners, enabling them to develop their services further.
“Congratulations are in order for The London Pathway, and also to the other five organisations that were shortlisted.”
Don Wood, Chair of the judging panel and Chairman of London Housing Foundation said: “The London Pathway’s innovative approach to homelessness captures the true spirit in which the Ludlow awards were set up. Using medical staff who work closely with other agencies specifically to help the homeless has had a positive impact on the health of many homeless people.”
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