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Celebrating 5 years of Arch Healthcare

On the 1st of February 2017, Arch Healthcare opened its doors for the first time. Read on for a bit more about our history and our journey into 2022!

Arch: Celebrating 5 incredible years

In 1998 a specialist homeless surgery was established by Dr Chris Sargeant to provide health care for people who were living without secure homes in Brighton & Hove. Eighteen years later, long after Dr Sargeant had left the surgery, it was faced with the risk of closure. To those involved it was immediately obvious that the demise of the much-loved service would have devastating consequences for the 1400 registered patients who would, in all likelihood, be dispersed into the mainstream primary care services all around the city and would undoubtedly have led to many being without the specialist care which they needed.

The original Arch board members in 2016, sitting around a table having a meeting

The original Arch board members, at a kitchen meeting in 2016

Recognising the potential risk and harm which might have occurred through the closure of the surgery, the clinical team at the time; Dr. Tim Worthley and Nurse Hannah Bishop, her charity leader husband Gary, Dr. Sargeant, Geraldine Hoban and Fliss Purchase set out not only to help rescue the surgery but to deliver a whole new model of specialist homeless healthcare for the city.

Under their pioneering leadership Arch Health Community Interest Company (CIC) was formed. Arch is a non-profit organisation which exists to explore every opportunity to improve the health and well-being of people who are homeless or vulnerable. It is a values-driven organisation which is concerned not only with providing excellent care but also committed to developing a positive culture in which staff work and operate.

In November 2016 the Arch team learned that, after a long bidding process, they had been awarded an NHS contract and with just 10 weeks to mobilise they opened their doors under the Arch logo on February 1st 2017.

The new service incorporated the flagship ‘Arch Healthcare’ surgery, but also included the Pathway inreach services to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, an extensive non-clinical health engagement project in partnership with Justlife, outreach into day centres and other community settings and the provision of support and leadership to the whole system as it sought to meet the may complex needs of people who are without secure accommodation.

This model worked: In 2018, in its first inspection, Arch attained the highest possible rating from the CQC, “outstanding” in all 5 areas. As Arch CEO Gary Bishop said, “it feels hugely significant that people who are without homes in our city, can benefit from some of the highest standards of healthcare in the country.”

Patients agree: Arch consistently receives positive feedback from people who have been treated and supported by Arch Healthcare.

“Thank you for your support. The nation needs you.” “Arch has saved my life!” “Everyone is really kind and they never make me feel judged.” “They help my anxiety.” “Don’t know what I’d do without this Surgery you save lives you should be proud.”

Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Executive Director at Arch, Hannah Bishop says:

“Starting Arch was an amazing privilege, it felt like an adventure. Stepping out from being employed to work in a service, to creating a team and infrastructure to run it was exciting and scary but it felt like to right thing to be doing and an amazing group of people to be working with. We all had such a determination that healthcare for people experiencing homeless needed to be better and we felt like we could do that. The early days were challenging, but we learned quickly and had good people around us to help and advise. Remembering why we did this…. because we believe that people experiencing homelessness have often had thing after thing after thing happen to them in life, and are in the most difficult of circumstances. Healthcare needs to be the best for people experiencing the worst of times, everyone should have access to healthcare. We wanted to try to make that happen.”

CEO Gary Bishop said:

“It was Christmas eve 2016 when I heard that Brighton Homeless Healthcare was at risk of closure, it was immediately obvious to us that we had to do something. We knew that people really would really suffer if the service hadn’t continued and credit to the NHS bosses at the time they really listened to our protests and our hopes and dreams.

Starting Arch was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is difficult to describe what happened in 2016 when as a group of friends we gathered around a kitchen table and imagined what might be possible. The fuel for that journey was passion, commitment, incredible clinical skill and expertise and a sheer desire to bring about transformation both for individuals and for the healthcare we could offer to people experiencing homelessness.

Five years on I can still recall the adrenaline, excitement, fear and anticipation which overcame us on opening day, February 1 2017. I’m grateful to so many people who believed in us from day one and all those who have joined us on the way, staff, partners, patients and supporters. There is much, much more to do – dozens of young people still die whilst homeless in Brighton & Hove every year, many of them from preventable causes. We remain committed to serving, learning, listening, partnering and improving in order to change that.”

Healthcare Assistant Ronnie Miller said:

“I really enjoy supporting and getting to know our patients, and being there for them when they may be facing a tough situation. I got feedback from a patient, who had previously had a fear of nurses/doctors and needles. Before coming to Brighton he would never see health professionals. However I had made him feel really comfortable and he felt able to have his bloods done, and go on to build a relationship with a doctor. He said that the impact I had on him was so significant that it changed his life and helped him trust people/professionals. This made me feel so proud, and also emotional!”

Here at Arch, we remain committed to our vision of improving the health of people without a secure home in Brighton and Hove, as we look forward to the next five years. We will achieve this through our values, which keep us anchored in this work, enabling us to remember what’s important both day-to-day and in the big picture. We carry out our work with kindness, humanity, fairness, honesty and integrity, whilst striving to think outside the box to how we can collaborate, lead and innovate in order to continue to improve our service. Watch this space for exciting developments in the near future!

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