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Royal Surrey’s Pop-up Clinics Bring Health For the Homeless

Published on: 24 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 27 Jun, 2020

RSCH staff members who help run the outreach pop-up clinics for the homeless

Royal Surrey pop-up clinics in Guildford and Woking areas are providing life-saving healthcare to the homeless during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The innovative outreach project has been launched by clinicians at the Royal Surrey County Hospital to screen and treat the local homeless community for hepatitis C and liver damage. Historically, homeless people are at a much higher risk of contracting hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause liver damage, as well as being less likely to access essential healthcare.

Due to the pandemic, homeless people across Surrey have been housed, giving clinicians much-needed access to them. Royal Surrey doctors and nurses are working with the Hepatitis C Trust to set up this potentially life-saving service. So far, the team has screened more than 100 patients for hepatitis C and liver damage, treating those who need it.

Romanie Westwood, a clinical nurse specialist for the Trust who has been providing this service, said: “Hepatitis C can cause many serious health problems and although the prevalence of this disease in the general Surrey population is relatively low, the risk of hepatitis C to the homeless population can be up 20 times higher.

“The project has been hugely rewarding in a time where everything feels quite bleak.”

Rachel Halford, chief executive officer of the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “In what has been the most extraordinary and difficult of times for many, it has been fantastic to turn restriction into something positive. By working alongside the pop-up clinics, our peer support workers have been able to reach and support some of the most marginalised and hardest to engage people in our society.

“This has been a unique window of opportunity where we have been able to provide education and awareness about hepatitis C to stop transmission and support those who have been diagnosed to access the short course of treatment needed to cure it.”

The pop-up clinics will continue for the foreseeable future.

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