Feature: Urban Village Medical Practice

Urban Village Medical Practice (UVMP) is a large GP practice in Ancoats, with over 10,000 registered patients.

We are the only commissioned health care service for homeless people in Manchester, and have been providing primary health care to homeless patients for over 20 years. We currently have over 850 registered homeless patients.

The Homeless Healthcare Team is made up of both clinical and support staff; collectively, we work across the city trying to engage homeless people with healthcare, whilst promoting positive health and wellbeing.

Rachel, Phil, Heidi & Jane from UVMP

The team conduct regular outreach sessions in the city centre; talking to beggars and rough sleepers about their health, as well as providing information on how to access health services. The Nurse for the Homeless Team visits day centres and hostels, providing health checks, giving information on a variety of health issues and linking patients in with mainstream health services.

Patients registering with the practice receive a comprehensive assessment and a tailored plan specific to their health and social needs. Once registered, patients can access the many services we provide at the surgery, including: GPs; Nurses; mental health workers; wound dressing clinic; dentist; drug treatment; and infectious disease treatment. We offer an easy access and flexible booking system for appointments, which encourages attendance and supports patients to attend. We have an assertive approach for our more chaotic patients, which can often involve locating them and supporting them to get to the surgery. Liaising with other homeless organisations to ensure patients are reminded of appointments, improves the chances of patients attending, whilst allowing an opportunity for multi-agency working.

In addition to the work we do in the community, we also work with homeless people who are admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI). We visit patients on the ward for the duration of their stay, ensuring they receive the treatment they require and a comprehensive plan for a safe discharge. Once back in the community we provide follow up to ensure health needs are met and maintained, minimising the chance of further admissions.

We also work with frequent attenders to the A&E department at MRI. One of our Case Managers works proactively to engage the person identified as a frequent attender; the reasons behind their multiple attendances are often linked to lack of accommodation, or because their health needs are not being met in the community. The Case Manager supports the individual to address the identified issues, find appropriate and achievable solutions and implement them.

For us to be able to access funds on behalf of our patients via ‘The Big Change’, has opened up a wealth of opportunities. The level and types of support that we we have been able to offer our patients, are vastly improved. In 2016 we were granted funds enabling us to provide new, clean clothes to homeless people being discharged from hospital, and clean underwear and pyjamas for homeless people to use while they are in hospital. This enables them to protect their dignity whilst making them feel more comfortable. Additionally, we have been able to support patients to make the transition from homelessness into independent accommodation, by providing items that turn a house into a home. We’ve been able to provide carpets, furniture and electrical goods, which ordinarily patients wouldn’t have the funds to buy, but are often crucial to the success of a tenancy.

The Big Change fund has also provided travel warrants, as a means to support patients to access healthcare services and outpatient appointments in other localities, such as Trafford and Salford. Without this option, the chances of patients attending these appointments are drastically reduced, which in turn increases the chances of their health deteriorating, and them potentially seeking support with their health issues via A&E.

We are passionate about supporting homeless people to address their health needs, and helping them to access appropriate services. To promote this, we provide training to all people working with the homeless population by delivering Homeless Healthcare Standards Training. We also deliver ‘Know Your Rights’ training to homeless people themselves, which provides information about their entitlement to healthcare, and advice on any issues which they may be encountering.

We recently published a Homeless Health Needs Audit, based on research we conducted with homeless people in Manchester in 2016.

This provided an opportunity for homeless people to talk about their health issues and experiences accessing services, with the hope that the feedback could improve how services work to meet the needs of homeless people in the future.

See here for more details of UVMP’s services and opening times.