Homeless service is commended in prestigious health award

Date published: 04 July 2021

A vital health service for homeless and transient people in the Rochdale borough has been commended in the final for a Health Service Journal (HSJ) award 2021 in the Best Healthcare Provider Partnership within the NHS Category.

The Health Alliance Response Team (HART) is a voluntary service and forms part of Rochdale Health Alliance’s portfolio of services. The team was set up to care for the primary healthcare needs of people who are traditionally hard to reach or resistant to accessing health services. They care for people who access the soup kitchens and also live on local streets, in parks and in hostels.

Typical treatments are wound care, mental health screening, feet checks, medication reviews, giving prescriptions and blood pressure monitoring. Service users are seen by the HART outreach nurses on a regular basis and they are supported and signposted to other services as needed.

The commendation was received as the service showed it had helped the NHS by providing excellent and pioneering services, responding to a local need for increased capacity or for provision of a service which is not available through NHS local providers.

Following the success of the voluntary service, the HART Outreach Service, which includes two nurses and a Liaison Officer, includes face to face advice and assessments and support is also offered in getting people registered with a GP practice if they wish to. The HART Outreach Service is commissioned by Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Clinical Commissioning Group (HMR CCG).


HART nurses with Nurse Associates vaccinating at Leopold Court
HART nurses with Nurse Associates vaccinating at Leopold Court


Flu vaccinations have been given by the HART team for the last three years and most recently Covid-19 vaccinations have given vital protection to this vulnerable group. Hundreds of service users have been vaccinated at hostels, bed and breakfasts and homeless support hubs to protect against coronavirus. Vaccinations take place every two weeks at the support hub, the Drake Street soup kitchen which is already a focal point for this target community.

HMR CCG’s Accountable Officer Steve Rumbelow said: “We are very proud that our local HART service has been commended in the Health Service Journal Awards in this way. I was blown away by the compassion of the nurses and doctors when I visited the service and their determination to break away from traditional barriers that often deter this group of people from seeking healthcare. We are lucky to have such service in the borough to benefit one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.”

Middleton GP and Chair of Rochdale Health Alliance, Dr Mo Jiva said: “Because of transient lifestyles, homeless people are more susceptible to many health issues and that includes the harm from Covid-19.

“Unfortunately, there are increasing numbers of people in the borough who are homeless and live transient lifestyles who often also have substance misuse, mental health and dependency problems.

“These chaotic lifestyles mean that many rarely access health services at traditional venues like GP surgeries and so the HART service goes to them to meet their needs.”

Jackie Stansfield, Head of Clinical Services at Rochdale Health Alliance, said: “The HART service can be credited for making a real improvement to the health and lives of many homeless people in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale and we are extremely proud of this achievement.

“We are pleased that we have been able to mobilise this crucial service which offers direct treatment for immediate concerns, for example open wounds, to a range of preventative measures such as screening and vaccinations.

“Most recently being able to offer these clients the life-saving coronavirus vaccination has been rewarding.”

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