Trinity Homelessness VRGiving immersive first person experience of homelessness
to healthcare professionals using Virtual Reality

This blog comes from Dr Barbara Skeffington, a Consultant at Trinity: "I’ve always been proud of the fantastic and compassionate care that we provide at Royal Trinity Hospice but I’m worried that not everyone who could benefit from it gets access to it as much as is needed.

It is well known that homeless people do not access healthcare in the same way as the general population and the same goes for their access to palliative care. So, a couple of years ago I set up the Homelessness Working Party at Trinity, comprised of enthusiastic members from across the organisation, here at the hospice, to try and explore ways that we could reach out to those that are homeless and have palliative care needs.

Since then, we have:

  • organised a stakeholder gathering in October 2016 which was well attended and started to link us in with some of the key individuals and organisations working on homelessness;
  • supported the homeless with palliative care needs (21 patients so far), at first on an ad hoc basis but now we are trying to do this in a more systematic way, through links with hostels, as well as those who support the street homeless;
  • promoted our work through visits to hostels and specialist GP surgeries, speaking at events, teaching sessions and networking at external meetings – so that those who work to support the homeless are aware of the help that we can provide and hopefully help improve access for this underserved population;
  • organised “Homelessness Awareness Week” to help teach our own staff about the issues faced by the homeless population and how best we can support them.

In the future we plan to:

  • continue to visit hostels to provide both support and teaching, as well as hopefully seeing new referrals;
  • provide training on end of life care for those who work with the homeless, including advance care planning;
  • promote our work to the rest of the palliative care profession in order to inspire other providers to improve their outreach to the homeless.

It’s been a slow process, but we have learned a lot along the way. We're now coming to the end of Homelessness Awareness Week at the hospice and so far attendance and interest from staff has been huge.

It’s really great to see how interested people are in helping this group, who have been marginalised for so long. Thank you to everyone taking part and to Kate Ward, Kate Wells and Helen King who have done a great job organising the week!"