Arc’s GP Surgery Launch for local homeless community

Local homeless charity Arc are pleased to announce a new local provision, enabling homeless individuals and rough sleepers to access health care.

Arc support around 200 people on any one night across Taunton, Sedgemoor and West Somerset, providing accommodation in their 15 properties. One of these properties is Lindley House, a 56-bed direct access hostel with 24-hour support.

As a growing charitable organisation, Arc are always looking for ways to expand their reach to ensure the local homeless community have access to the care and support they need. Arc know that this goes beyond housing.

The charity has offered in-house GP appointments for some time in partnership with Taunton Vale Healthcare and could see the importance of this service. It had therefore been a plan to build on this and create a wider provision for healthcare for the homeless.

Arc’s plans were put on hold due to the pandemic, but they are now delighted to announce that they have renovated a space at the back of their hostel to become an in-house GP Surgery. Through the hard work of Arc’s Property Team, the surgery is now ready to use and has already seen many client’s benefit.

Arc’s CEO Justin Roxburgh comments: “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. We are incredibly proud to be able to offer this service to rough sleepers and other people who are homeless in the area.”

Arc have been working alongside Taunton Vale Healthcare, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council and Public Health (Somerset) as wider discussions and work take place seeking to address health inequalities for those experiencing homelessness.

The new service will soon be used to provide flu vaccinations for clients at Lindley House, which is being funded by Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group.

Sandra Corry
Sandra Corry

Sandra Corry, director of quality and nursing, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, 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. Tackling health inequalities is a key focus in ensuring that everyone has equal access to NHS services.

“This joint initiative between Arc and health and care providers across the county is a really positive example of how working in partnership is benefiting our local community.

“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 for use of many healthcare providers enabling homeless individuals to also access support with areas such as mental health, sexual health and more.

image of gp consultation room

Andy Lloyd, from the Public Health team in Somerset and chair of the Positive Lives Strategic Board added: ‘The collaborative work seen here is a great example of the success of the Positive Lives alliance in Somerset. 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 workplan. 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 just the start of Arc’s plan to create their own wellbeing hub, named ‘The Reach Centre’. Here, other agencies will provide drop in sessions and Arc already have commitments from Rethink Mental Health, the Nelson Trust, Navigate (Navigate the Money Maze), the Department of Work and Pensions, SWISH, Forgotten Feet and a range of professional volunteers wanting to provide complementary support such as counselling. Such a range of services in one easy to access location will be a huge

benefit to Arc’s residents and rough sleepers, allowing them to access services in a more flexible manner. The homeless community will be able to receive the health care they need and are entitled to. This service will also enable individuals to engage and build trust with different agencies and hopefully gain in confidence and feel comfortable to continue accessing independently, further down the line in community settings, as people move-on from Arc services.

Arc plan to deliver these services entirely from their own resources and free of charge to those who need support.