There’s an old proverb that says “our life experiences shape us into who we will become” and this couldn’t be more apparent for Stan Burridge who is a Project Lead for homeless healthcare charity which has a close relationship with UCLH Charity, Pathway.
Stan was homeless for 20 years and this life brought with it the trials and tribulations that every homeless person will face; the multiple visits to A&E caused by health problems associated with homelessness and the unobtainable task of negotiating housing, health and inclusion.
Now living a stable life involving full-time employment for Pathway, Stan has worked his way up to become Project Lead for Expert by Experience involvement in the charity. He is based in UCLH and brings together teams of people who have been homeless to help train professionals about homelessness and exclusion, and the ways doctors and nurses can help.
Stan has recently published an article in the British Medical Journal, Three forms of identification and a letter from God, which portrays a passionate account of his experiences being turned away by local healthcare services. “So many obstacles were in the way”, he says. “No address, out of area, no proof of who I was. It was as if I needed three forms of identification and a letter from God just to get past the receptionist.”
This jovial description highlights a more serious absence of protocol for registering homeless people with mainstream general practitioners, and this could be the reason why people who are homeless use A&E six times more than most people.
Alex Bax, Chief Executive for Pathway says, “Helping people who are homeless to access GP care would help both the person and the NHS generally. A&E services are under significant strain, and anything that could help relieve this ought to be welcomed with open arms.”
To tackle this problem, the NHS Health London Partnership funded Pathway to produce a video and e-learning package about GP registration for homeless people and this has been circulated to all GP surgeries in London. The charity also helps to produces guidance for commissioners and service providers on homeless health services, through the Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health.
Stan comments, “It’s easy for me to understand the needs for homeless patients but the current healthcare model reflects a system that doesn’t. That’s why supporting people with a experience of homelessness to talk openly about their healthcare experiences might impact this current understanding.”
Stan is also campaigning about other issue that face homeless people. His recent article, Is the internet wide enough for homeless people, comments on the difficultly homeless people face in staying connected with the modern, technologically driven world. Read more about Pathway’s work.