London’s first dedicated detox unit for homeless people to open

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London’s first dedicated detox unit for homeless people is set to open on 14 June to help save the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable people and provide them with an avenue off the streets for good.

The Addiction Clinical Care Suite, based at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, will plug a known gap in treatment facilities for homeless people dealing with serious alcohol and substance dependence. Its location in a hospital setting will enable patients to receive the wide range of care needed to treat the complexity of health problems facing those living on London’s streets.

This vital new service is being provided thanks to a unique pan-London partnership among the capital’s leading public bodies.

Public Health England (PHE) London led the creation of the project with the Greater London Authority, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and London’s borough councils after funding was awarded by central government. The project was then commissioned by the City of London Corporation before St Thomas’ Hospital was chosen to deliver the service.

As well as supporting people who sleep rough to safely withdraw from alcohol and drugs as part of the first steps in a treatment journey, the service will also provide peer support, groups, and activities alongside a range of other initiatives focusing on stopping smoking, healthy eating, essential screening, vaccinations and mental wellbeing.

It includes a holistic support programme, with access to psychiatrists and psychologists to help patients begin a recovery from life on the streets and harmful substance use.

The intention is to meet immediate needs while providing opportunities for long term change, contributing to ending rough sleeping and tackling entrenched health inequalities.

The service is funded through a combination of grants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and local authority treatment budgets. Referrals will come from across London and local authorities will ensure that people supported by the service have somewhere suitable to go after their detox period has been completed.

This is the first of several new pan-London substance misuse services due to open this year thanks to the PHE-led partnership and commissioning from the City of London. These initiatives will give people who sleep rough a life-saving opportunity to access valuable treatment services that have been designed to meet their needs and specific vulnerabilities.

Eddie Hughes MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, said:

We know that one of the many issues facing rough sleepers, or those at risk of homelessness, is drug or alcohol misuse and the crippling effect this can have on people’s lives.

The detox unit at St Thomas’ Hospital will offer transformative care to rough sleepers in London suffering from addiction, to ensure some of London’s most vulnerable people get the help they need.

This is one of many projects supported by the government’s £750 million investment this year to help end rough sleeping, which includes £52 million specifically allocated to substance misuse support services.

The average life expectancy for a rough sleeper in England is 44 years old and this new programme offers a unique opportunity to maximise the engagement of London’s rough sleepers in substance misuse treatment and recovery as part of a wider homeless health and resettlement programme.

The burden on the NHS linked to substance misuse is also increasing. Over the past ten years the rate of alcohol admissions for mental and behavioural disorders in London has increased from 295 per 100,000 hospital admissions to 425 per 100,000 in 2018 to 2019.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Community and Children Services Committee, Ruby Sayed, said:

Rough sleeping is the most acute and visible form of homelessness, and an issue that remains a challenge not only in the Square Mile, but right across London and indeed the country.

Every single person has the right to feel safe, secure and protected. The new facility at St Thomas’ Hospital will provide a holistic support programme, allowing people to begin a recovery from life on the streets and harmful substance use.

In collaboration with our partners, we are proud to support some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

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