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International Women’s Day 8th March 2024

On International Women’s Day, Arch Healthcare extends outreach to Brighton’s most vulnerable women

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Arch Healthcare puts a spotlight on a group often overlooked – women experiencing homelessness.

While it’s widely known that people facing homelessness die on average 30 years earlier than those who have homes, what may surprise many is that women in this situation have an even shorter life expectancy. Statistics reveal that the average age of death for a man experiencing homelessness is 45, while for a woman it is just 43.

Women experiencing homelessness face unique challenges, rendering a blanket approach to homeless healthcare unsuitable, and often exacerbating their challenges. Women are more likely to be “hidden” homeless, resorting to sofa surfing, sleeping on buses, or staying in precarious accommodations, as reported by St Mungos in 2023.

Two women standing in a park next to a bike, smiling at the camera

Furthermore, women experiencing homelessness often have severe, complex problems, fraught with deep-seated trauma, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, often perpetuated by those closest to them, compounding their struggle to forge positive relationships and rebuild trust. Women are also more likely than men to experience further abuse, exploitation and violence while homeless, hindering their ability to recover.

In response to this pressing need, Arch’s dedicated outreach team, led by Ruth and Jess, has been working to target the most vulnerable women on the surgery’s register. Adopting a person centred approach, they engage with female patients in settings conducive to trust-building. The team operate round the city on distinctive purple electric bikes, which aids visibility and familiarity, and also enables the team to be agile, reaching any location or sleep site with ease and speed.

Ruth Reilly, Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Outreach Team Coordinator says, “These women have often lost trust in the system that is there to help them, so it’s our job to build this trust back up, by delivering care in a location that’s familiar and easy for them to access. During our visits we’ll offer healthcare support, but equally we will offer a friendly face and a chat. We are absolutely delighted to have a partnership with the charity Beauty Bank, which donates bags of toiletries to offer to women. This is hugely helpful and appreciated, and goes a long way to restoring trust and supporting women to start engaging with their health and wellbeing.”

Jess Bayliss, the outreach team’s Health Engagement Worker, shares a success story of a formerly disengaged patient who has now been seen by our GP at Arch. Jess says, “Supporting a recent patient on her journey to reclaiming her health and wellbeing has been a gradual process. When people are severely marginalised by long term homelessness it can take a committed, assertive approach to reconnect with them. It has taken patience on both sides, but over time we established useful channels of communication. Our patient, who faces extreme barriers to accessing care, is now being supported to re-prioritise her health once more.”

As International Women’s Day approaches, Arch Healthcare embraces the theme of Inspiring Inclusion, breaking down barriers to good health for those women facing the very toughest of times.

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