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Award-winning services for homelessness

Learn about King’s Health Partners award-winning work supporting people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr EmmertThe Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Healthy London Partnership, including colleagues from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, won the 2020 HSJ Health and Local Government Award for their homeless health response to COVID-19 which included establishing the new Homeless Hotel Drug and Alcohol Service. Their work was vital in delivering substance misuse support to people experiencing rough sleeping in emergency accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic in London.

Dr Emmert Roberts [pictured above], clinical lead for the service, talks about his experiences and what receiving the award means to him.

Dr Roberts, please describe your role within King's Health Partners. 

I am an MRC Clinical Research Fellow in the National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience King’s College London and an Honorary Addiction Psychiatrist at the South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak I worked as the clinical lead for the newly established Homeless Hotel Drug and Alcohol Service (HDAS-London), the first pan-London commissioned drug and alcohol service providing alcohol, tobacco and drug support to those individuals experiencing rough sleeping temporarily housed in hotel accommodation across the capital.

Please describe the award-winning work on The London Homeless Health Response to COVID-19.

In late March 2020 the government implemented a national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under a policy entitled ‘Everyone In’, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued a directive that local authorities should provide temporary emergency accommodation to all individuals experiencing rough sleeping within their area.

In London ‘Everyone In’ was coordinated by the GLA and the city’s 33 borough councils who, largely through procurement of empty hotels, provided housing to more than 5,000 individuals during the course of the outbreak.

In partnership with health organisations across London and Public Health England (PHE), a coordinated healthcare response was delivered. Part of this response involved the GLA, in partnership with PHE London, commissioning a new, bespoke remote pan-London substance misuse service for hotel residents (HDAS-London).

One of the service’s aims was to coordinate a safe, evidence-based and clinically appropriate response to the spectrum of alcohol and drug misuse. Clinical leadership for HDAS-London was provided by South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust with other aspects of HDAS-London provided by other mental health NHS Trusts, such as Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, and partners from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (CGL, Turning Point, WDP, Phoenix Futures and We are With You).

What does receiving the HSJ Health and Local Government Partnership award mean to you? 

Recognition that addiction expertise was vital in ensuring a coordinated healthcare response across London during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is really valued. Bringing together the majority of London’s substance misuse providers at a time of crisis was a unique opportunity to find new ways of working together for the benefit of service users across the city.

As quoted in Pan-London Homeless Hotel Drug & Alcohol Support Service (HDAS) Lessons Learned, “previous work has indicated that of people experiencing rough sleeping in London 42% are estimated to have alcohol misuse needs and 41% have drug misuse needs.”

I hope this award serves to highlight the need for specialist addiction services and helps advocate for the millions of patients with drug, alcohol and tobacco addiction in the UK.

What have been the key learnings from your work and how do you see this impact it has had on south east London growing in the future?

Our work highlights the need for coordinated working across local government and health organisations to serve the marginalised population of those experiencing rough sleeping. It demonstrates the current need for addiction services and that without advocacy addiction expertise is likely to become extinct in England.

What role has King’s Health Partners played in supporting your work?

Both clinical expertise and research have played a vital role in this area of work. South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s clinical expertise in the addiction field continues to be demonstrated through projects like HDAS-London. Also, the work of researchers at the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London capturing the experiences of those people temporarily housed in hotels was able to provide much needed direct rapid feedback to improve the experience for residents.

Liked this article? Read about our other HSJ award-winners