17 July 2019

This summer, the HealthBus, a healthcare outreach service for rough sleepers operated by Boscombe’s Providence Surgery and supported by YMCA Bournemouth, received significant recognition of the value of its work when it was awarded a grant of £47,993 from the Nationwide Community Grants programme. The money will fund GP costs, insurance, nursing salary, drug/alcohol and mental health specialists and equipment.

Parked outside St Stephen’s Church in Bournemouth every Thursday from 9am to 12.30pm, The HealthBus provides a lifeline for rough sleepers whose health problems can otherwise remain unchecked due to the barriers they face, such as being asked to leave GP waiting rooms because of their appearance, hygiene or behaviour, or – contrary to NHS guidelines – being refused registration because they have no address. The service reaches up to 200 people annually.

Shockingly, the average life expectancy of a homeless person is just 47 for men and 43 for women and, as reported in a recent article in the Guardian, new research reveals that homeless people in England are 60 times more likely to visit A&E in a year than the general population.*

“A huge thank you to Nationwide for their enthusiasm and support,” said HealthBus’s founder Dr Maggie Kirk. “The funding ensures that we can keep going this year and expand by looking to employ additional staff. This is going to make a big difference to many rough sleepers. Timely, low-cost interventions and preventative healthcare at the point of need can save the NHS thousands of pounds… and save lives.”

HealthBus trustee Christopher Hughes emphasised the importance of their supporters: “It just wouldn’t be possible without our brilliant staff, volunteers and our exceptional partners: YMCA Bournemouth, Providence Surgery, St Stephen’s Church, Howard Hughes Business Solutions, Green Tambourine, and now Nationwide.”

The Nationwide Community Grants programme awards grants of between £5,000 and £50,000 towards housing-related projects that support the most vulnerable and which make a positive change in a local area. It awards up to £5.5 million each year to 11 regions across the UK..

Lindsey New, Branch Manager at Nationwide, Southbourne, and Sally Duckmanton, Assistant Branch Manager at Nationwide, Winton, were chosen to present the cheque to Dr Maggie Kirk and her team.

“Nationwide was set up to help people into homes of their own and we are very pleased to donate to the HealthBus,” said Lindsey. “Homelessness could happen to anyone and this is a great way to be able to help.”

“We must aim to understand homelessness and homeless people more,” added Sally, who, along with Lindsey, is now discussing the possibility of Nationwide staff volunteering with the HealthBus.

YMCA Bournemouth Senior Operations Officer Martin Stockley commented: “It’s fantastic to be involved in this project, one which helps some of the most marginalised people in society and which will also reduce healthcare costs to the NHS over the long-term. This funding is recognition of how valuable the HealthBus is to the local community and we are hugely grateful to Nationwide for their generosity.”

You can find out more about the HealthBus at https://healthbus.co.uk/