Mental health help for homeless
Team focuses on issues at Heathrow airport
STAFF from an NHS care provider met with ‘Heathrow’s homeless’ to raise awareness of mental health issues.
The Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) noted that a high number of people entered mental health services in Hillingdon borough, particularly through A&E, from the airport and wanted to find out why.
Between 80 to 100 homeless people sleep at Heathrow Airport on a regular basis.
Four Hillingdon CNWL staff, based at Riverside Centre, joined police and Heathrow Airport security staff to talk to homeless people, to give them advice on mental health difficulties and to help signpost them The Uxbridge Gazette Series to services which provide them support if needed.
Kim Cox, borough director for mental health services in Hillingdon, said: “As part of our systems resilience programme in Hillingdon, we have applied for funding to provide a street triage service which means we will be working closely with police and ambulance services to support people with mental health difficulties.
“Our model will be slightly different to other boroughs because of Heathrow Airport.
“We have a number of entering our health can with high people mental services, particularly through A&E, from the airport.
“During my communications with the police and airport staff around our bid, they said that they would really like some support from mental health staff when they are engaging with homeless people sleeping at the airport.”
Soraya McDevitt, a matron, asked people if they wanted to speak to someone from mental health services and said “a lot of people did”.
She said: “It was clear that for a lot of people, problems were social rather than related to mental health and it is amazing how people cope.”
Ms DcDevitt was joined by psychiatric liaison nurses, Gemma Tunnel, and Itai Mubaiwa, as they scoured three of the airport’s five terminals, and Heathrow’s bus station.
Verity Berry, patient flow manager, thought the day was great to strengthen links with the police, airport security staff and Thames Reach staff, and help them to learn more about mental health services
She said: “I think the exercise also helped to raise awareness about how we need to break down the stigma of mental health; it doesn’t mean you talk to people differently.
“I was able to take a lot of knowledge back to my own job too.
“For example, I learnt a lot about the immigration process which was interesting because some of the homeless people we met were actually waiting to be deported and didn’t always have a place to stay. I think there was a lot of reciprocal learning.”
CNWL say they are keen to continue this kind of work in the future.
Ms Cox added: “This experience also flagged up that we need to look at tightening governance if we are going to do similar work in the future.”
n TEAM WORK: Above right, Kim Cox, Verity Berr and Soraya McDevitt. Above, Heathrow bus station