Winning the HSJ 2004 Primary Care Award was important to the patients of the Leicester Homeless Primary Healthcare Service. As members of a frequently marginalised community, it was good that a team exclusively dedicated to meeting their health needs was honoured in such a way.
'Winning the award gave a very public endorsement of our work, which until then may have been perceived as maverick or outside the mainstream of usual service provision, ' says Dr Nigel Hewett from Eastern Leicester primary care trust, who heads the homeless team.
'We had a party with our patients to celebrate the award. There was a display of pictures from the ceremony and quotes from the judges. We also had some coverage in the PCT newsletter.'
It is not the first time the service has received high praise. Earlier in the year it won team of the year at the Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland strategic health authority leadership and innovation awards. Encouraged by this accomplishment, they decided to submit an entry for the HSJ Awards.
Dr Hewett says: 'I wanted to communicate the benefits of outreach working for a hard-toreach group - that it is possible to provide high-quality primary health care for homeless people and to develop a team with real passion and commitment to their work.' The homeless healthcare service is entirely outreach-based and works from a variety of venues - night shelters, hostels and drop-in centres.
The team provides GP, practice nurse and nurse practitioner clinics offering treatment and diagnostic services that include minor surgery, vaccinations and smear tests.
The medical records are completely computerised and this is believed to be the only homeless persons health scheme in the country that operates in such a manner.
Reflecting on the HSJ Awards Dr Hewett explains that it is not just about winning. The taking part counts for an awful lot as well:
'There were benefits to the entry process itself. It encouraged me to review our achievements in detail.
Once shortlisted, the presentation process focused my mind on explaining what had been done and how.'