‘Bevan Bus’ and Everyone In Key to Vaccinating Hundreds of Vulnerable Patients
Following the Public Health England announcement that the government has agreed homeless people should be given priority for the coronavirus vaccine, Bevan Healthcare has already given the first vaccine to hundreds of vulnerable patients in West Yorkshire.
As a social enterprise providing responsive NHS GP Services to socially excluded groups, the Bevan Healthcare team know from experience the barriers faced by these groups to receiving basic health care, such as COVID-19 vaccination, as well as their increased vulnerability to the disease. People experiencing homelessness may not have an NHS Number and so struggle to register with a GP or lack access to basic hygiene care such as handwashing facilities. They are also more likely to have underlying health conditions that can arise from sleeping rough.
Key to the roll out of the vaccine among vulnerable populations has been the Street Health Team and the ‘Bevan Bus’, a fully equipped clinic bus with vaccine storage. In addition to driving through city centres to identify people living on the street, emergency accommodation provided by ‘Everyone In’ funding has enabled Bevan Healthcare to reach groups of homeless people living in temporary homeless hostels and offer them the vaccine.
Dominic Maddocks is a Street Health Clinical Practitioner at Bevan Healthcare. Speaking about his experience of delivering the service during the pandemic, Maddocks said,
“I’ve found that our presence on the streets and the ‘Bevan Bus’ has enabled us to provide a human face to healthcare throughout the pandemic. It has been a scary time for everyone never mind homeless people who may lack access to basic information due to things like data poverty or not owning a smart phone. We’ve been able to provide that information face to face. Simple things like a hot drink on cold day and having interpreters available on the phone for those who don’t speak English, these have all increased vaccine take up”.
“Expecting patients to travel to GP appointments at allotted times is not always practical for any number of reasons, even more so during lockdown, so being able to take the vaccine to our patients has been key. The visibility of the bus has helped with vaccine roll out. The sight of patients queuing for the vaccine outside the bus has then gone on to encourage other patients to do the same and we’ve certainly managed to vaccinate more people than we would have in a ‘traditional’ drop-in GP clinic”.
This proactive and practical approach is typical of Bevan Healthcare. Since their formation ten years ago, the social enterprise has gained a reputation for pioneering innovative solutions to complex healthcare issues. Managing Director, Gina Rowlands is a founding member who also continues to practice as a nurse with the Street Healthcare Team.
“Our strapline is Health, Hope and Humanity and our patients have needed these three things more than ever this last year,” says Rowlands.
“The pandemic has demonstrated something we already knew at Bevan, that housing and healthcare are intrinsically linked. Most rough sleepers have been given accommodation during lockdown under the ‘Everybody In’ scheme, this has meant accessing healthcare services and information has been made significantly easier and has certainly been key to the rate at which we have been able to roll out the first dose of the vaccine. The challenge continues for Bevan Healthcare as all patients will need to be contacted for their second dose. We’ll be watching the governments continuing response to homelessness as lockdown eases with much interest.”