Lives of 60,000 vulnerable people transformed by pioneering service

Thursday 29 March 2012

3 Boroughs event celebrations

A pioneering and award winning service that has helped more than 60,000 vulnerable people gain basic healthcare has celebrated its 20th birthday.

Established in 1992 by Lambeth Healthcare NHS Trust, the Three Boroughs Primary Health Care team has transformed the lives of thousands. Initially set up to help the homeless access healthcare services such as registering with GPs and diagnosis and treatment of minor illness and injuries, the team works across Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.

Unlike other services, the team see homeless people and refugees in hostels and day centres with experts on hand to provide direct clinical care, help and advice. Three Boroughs expanded in 1998 to include refugees, asylum seekers, drug and alcohol users and people with Tuberculosis (TB), HIV, Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia.

The team has received numerous awards and recognition for its work including being named London winners of Health and Social Care’s “Improving and reducing inequalities” in 2009. It now sees over 4,000 new cases each year and has a team of 60 people.

Carmen Rojas, Service Manager says: “When we started 20 years ago, our aim was simple – to help those who are vulnerable and socially excluded access the most basic of healthcare.

“These individuals are often forgotten by society and can sometimes fall through the safety net, not knowing who to turn to.

“We have helped thousands of people by giving help, advice and access to clinical services that can dramatically improve their health; and ultimately save lives.

“Although it’s a time to celebrate our achievements so far, there is still more to do and we have exciting plans over the next couple of years to make our services even better.”

Former service user, Tracey Chumley, 42, became homeless in 2008. Suffering from post-natal depression after the birth of her second child, she turned to alcohol which led to the breakdown of her relationship and she eventually lost her home. After a year of sleeping rough on the streets of London and admission to St Thomas’ Hospital in need of urgent medical care, Tracey was discharged to a hostel linked to the Three Boroughs team in February 2011.

“When I came to the hostel I was in a very bad way and extremely under weight. They dealt with everything for me –  regularly monitoring my health, arranging for prescriptions and build up drinks to be sent to me at the hostel and making referrals until I felt stronger and able to deal with things myself,” said Tracey.

“I felt supported by the whole team. My community nurse and alcohol support worker were marvellous and are still here to help and support me even now that I am back on track and have a home of my own again.”

Raphil Kabango, 27, came to the UK in March 2011 from the Congo and now has refugee status and attends a further education college to improve his English.

He says: “When I came here I was very depressed about what happened to me in my country. I had many health problems and found it hard to share this with people.

“The team helped me set up appointments to help with my medical condition and I now have someone to talk to about my experiences so that I can move forward with my life.”

On average, the team sees about 1400 refugees, 1300 homeless people, 900 drug and alcohol users with blood borne viruses, 350 HIV patients, 470 people with sickle cell, 540 antenatal cases (including family members) and 360 people with TB each year.

All the services are run by specialist nurses, supported by case and advocacy workers. The team aims to help avoid admission to hospital by providing specialist health care closer to service users

Last updated: March 2012

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