Homeless with deadly TB infection given roof over their heads

Homerton Hospital's TB team when they discovered they had won the award

Homerton Hospital's TB team when they discovered they had won the award - Credit: Archant

A team from Homerton University Hospital have been honoured with an award for their innovative work to ensure all homeless TB patients have a roof over their head whilst being treated for the deadly, infectious illness.

Homerton Hospital's TB team receiving the award, with Jaselle Williams (left) and Jeremy Miles (righ

Homerton Hospital's TB team receiving the award, with Jaselle Williams (left) and Jeremy Miles (right) both Bevan Foundation Trustees - Credit: Archant

The nurse-led multidisciplinary team of seven from the hospital in Homerton Row observed the challenges faced by homeless patients and the risk of transmission to other homeless people in Hackney – which has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the UK.

TB is a serious bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person.

Most people exposed to TB never develop symptoms, but if the immune system weakens, as seen in malnourished people, people with HIV or the elderly, TB bacteria can become active and affect the lungs, bones and nervous system.

The team from Homerton realised high levels of morbidity and mortality would continue amongst the homeless unless they could be housed, so they negotiated with Hackney Council’s housing department to ensure that all TB patients with no recourse to public funds are housed for the duration of their TB treatment.

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At a ceremony at Westminster last night the team realised they had been chosen out of a shortlist of five to receive the Bevan Prize for Health and Wellbeing for organisation, awarded to individuals and organisations which have made an exceptional commitment to advancing health and wellbeing in their field, while championing the founding principles of the NHS.

They said: “Although Hackney has undergone rapid gentrification recently, there are still significant numbers of people living in deprivation and poverty, and the borough still acts as a magnet to migrants both legal and undocumented, many of whom join hard to reach, socially excluded groups.

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“Reaching these groups has been a priority for our team, and our ethos is to take the services to them, in the form of outreach work on the streets, in the parks and wasteland, and in the various soup kitchens and other organisations which offer services to homeless people.

“However, once found and put on treatment, our team found that maintaining a homeless person on TB treatment posed other, major challenges which had to be overcome in order to cure these patients - their homelessness and no recourse to public funds.”

Baroness Jane Campbell, and mental health nurse Steve Cottrell also received recognition for their innovative work.

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