For the ABC Equity Team, no two days are every really the same. Together, they engage with a broad range of people from a mix of backgrounds, living in varying circumstances and work hard to make a difference to their lives.
At present the team run around four health check clinics and three community clinics a week, hosted in a mix of easily accessed community hubs.
For Equity Nurse, Linda, clinic days begin early as she checks and calibrates all the health equipment ready for the day. A 9am meeting then allows the team to share their plans for the day’s clinic, check what is needed and discuss any issues or concerns.
Once the team arrive at their clinic site for the day, they prep the venue and liaise with the venue manager to talk through what they will be offering. However, before stepping foot on site a large amount of work has already gone into prepping for clinics. Equity Coordinators Rachel and Lisa speak to site management, link workers and various community partners to ensure they are engaging the community in the most appropriate way and with the most relevant tools. Equity Administrator, Carolyn, also provides invaluable support throughout the process.
The Equity Team have been running both vaccination clinics and, most recently, wellbeing checks across a range of sites in East Surrey. Across its vaccination clinics the team are supported by the wider ABC team including Sue and Libby.
More than 200 health checks have now been completed and what started as a drive to reduce vaccination hesitancy has evolved into a powerful programme of engagement and improvement, with a clear healthcare legacy.
“We are making a difference and we’re identifying lots of underlying problems and healthcare concerns that would otherwise have gone unchecked. We’re so often seeing people at their worst and we know that without our work they wouldn’t otherwise access or engage with primary care,” says Equity Nurse, Jo.
With a clear focus on improving access to healthcare for underserved communities, the team have set up their services in women’s refuges, local faith settings, homeless shelters and GRT sites. And they’ve been increasingly encouraged by the change in attitudes towards them. “When we first began visiting people they were unsure about who we were and why we were there. But now we have built relationships and they often seek us out and are open to talking to us.”
Health checks include screening for a range of easily identified healthcare concerns such as BMI, blood pressure, blood sugar levels but they uncover so much more. When patients feel comfortable, they often open up and talk about their situations – from domestic abuse victims with harrowing experiences to rough sleepers – the team go above and beyond to ensure that the patient feels listened to. And where urgent help is needed, the team are able to mobilise and work together to find the most appropriate next steps – whether that be referral to another service / team or by personally escorting the patient to hospital for immediate support. Remember – this is the team who started a session with a health check on a pregnant mother and ended the session by assisting with the delivery of a healthy baby in the back of an ambulance!
“We’ve formed relationships with community leaders, which has led to some members of the GRT sites reaching out to us and even attending our Health Hub in Horley. Ultimately we’re providing person-centred care that goes beyond a simple one-off meeting. We bring in services that we feel can support them and often introduce patients to GP services for the first time,” says Jo.
One thing that is for certain is that the clinic hours rarely reflect the time that goes in to building these relationships and helping these specific communities to access the same services as everyone else. This is advocacy – supporting and representing vulnerable patients and empowering them, by giving them time to explain their situation and how they feel and finding practical ways to help them navigate the system and get the help they need. This often includes constant follow up which is something that the Team Advocate, Duriye has spent many hours doing to ensure that the work done on the day is the start of a positive and meaningful experience of primary care for the patient.
“Through health checks, our experienced clinicians Alison, Jo and Linda are able to address multiple health related issues and ensure that these are signposted back to their local GP for continued support. And with the recent appointment of Dr Samia Kidwai as our first Equity Clinical Lead, supported by Lena, we know that we’re in a great position to create a lasting generational change in the relationships between primary care and communities,” says Eva, Equity Manager.