St Martins is working in partnership with three GP Practices: Gurney, Oak Street and Prospect, to provide support to vulnerable people in the community who have been identified by the GPs as having a high mortality risk. Patients in this catchment area have the lowest life expectancy in the city.
St Martins support worker Eamonn works specifically with hard to reach people to encourage them to access basic healthcare. Eamonn said, “These are people who are unwell, inaccessible and chaotic. They are remote they are not even on our system. St Martins doesn’t know them. Nobody knows them.”
Eamonn talks about one client, Lisa, who he is trying to build contact with. She is a drug addict. He meets her in the pharmacy when she collects her methadone. Eamonn’s approach with Lisa is to make contact and establish trust in tiny increments. These small steps enable him to build up a rapport with her. Lisa is highly manipulative and Eamonn’s challenge is to piece together the information that is true in order to support her. Lisa tells him that she knows she needs help. He thinks she’s saying this to satisfy him, essentially to get him off her back.
If people like Lisa don’t want our help, why push it?
Eamonn said, “The people I work with on this pilot scheme are incredibly vulnerable. Chaos has worked for them so far but without our intervention they will become more vulnerable, more isolated and paranoid. Continuing on this path ultimately leads to fatalities. We believe that each person we encounter deserves a chance to live.”
Eamonn, who has 34 years’ experience working with homeless people currently supports eight clients as part of this pilot project, all of whom require intensive support. In other homeless services, such as hostel settings, there is an element of peer support and regular contact with staff. Even when people are on the streets there can be a sense of community among some of the rough sleepers. Despite having accommodation, Eamonn’s clients are more isolated than those on the streets.
“They can be afraid of being seen by people they don’t know, and that includes medical settings too. My work is to break down the fear. The only way we can succeed is by focusing on the client’s perspective, and showing them that with help, they are able to deal with life’s problems, just like the rest of us.”