Publish date: 01 May 2020

Eleven MSF staff are now providing nursing and logistics support at the London COVID CARE Centre, in partnership with the UCLH Find & Treat team.

Dr Al Storey and team in homeless hotel.jpg
Dr Al Story and colleagues

The project provides rapid testing, accommodation in which to self-isolate, and medical care, for members of the homeless community with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

The centre is supported by UCLH Find&Treat and is part of a wider 'COVID-19 Homeless Sector Plan' to prevent high mortality in this vulnerable group and minimise pressure on the NHS. 

Dr Al Story, clinical lead of the Find & Treat service at UCLH, said: “Together we transformed a hotel into a clinical specified environment in 24 hours able to provide round the clock clinical support and testing. This facility, the first in the country, takes people from the street, the hostels, the hotels and hospitals across London to prevent outbreaks and give homeless people the best possible chance to survive COVID-19.” 

The team monitors and manages residents’ medical and social care needs and, if necessary, rapidly escalates them to hospital for more intensive support. They also coordinate links to local GPs, as well as mental health and drug and alcohol services.

Rosamund Southgate, medical coordinator for the MSF UK response said: “This partnership means we can help provide tailored support to a group who are particularly at risk from COVID-19 and who face unique challenges in protecting themselves during this outbreak. The COVID CARE Centre provides people facing homelessness with the space to self-isolate, as well as the medical support to help residents get better." 

The 60 bed facility, which opened on 11 April, has cared for almost 40 people so far with an average occupancy of around 15 on any day. is Dowse/MSF

This partnership with UCLH Find&Treat represents the first time that MSF have deployed to provide medical assistance in the UK since it was founded in 1971. 

Vickie Hawkins, MSF UK executive director, added: “This global emergency is touching each and every one of us, our families, our friends and our communities. We couldn’t stand on the side-lines in the UK and watch this from a distance when we have decades of experience in working during outbreaks.

“We have always worked to protect the most vulnerable communities in the world. Here in the UK, the homeless community are among the most marginalised and are more likely to be at risk because of pre-existing health conditions. Without dedicated care and support, they are extremely vulnerable to this virus.”