London gets first dedicated detox unit for homeless people 

A new detox unit for homeless people will open in London next week, PHE has announced. Based at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, the Addiction Clinical Suite will also feature a full holistic support programme including access to psychiatrists and psychologists. 

Sadiq Khan
London Mayor, Sadiq Khan: ‘The health issues experienced by people who are homeless are often complex and entrenched, and there are no quick fixes.’

The facility will ‘plug a known gap in treatment facilities dealing with serious alcohol and substance dependence’, says PHE. A report by St Mungo’s published last year found that at least 12,000 people experiencing homelessness had gone without drug and alcohol treatment in 2018, a year when drug poisoning deaths among this population rose by more than 50 per cent (DDN, February 2020, page 4). Around 60 per cent of people sleeping rough now have a drug or alcohol problem, the report added, while the average life expectancy for someone sleeping rough in England is now 44.

The hospital setting of the new facility will help people to receive the wide range of care they need, says PHE, including essential screening, vaccinations, smoking cessation and healthy eating. The agency’s partners in the initiative include the Greater London Authority, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and London boroughs, with funding from both central government and local authority treatment budgets. Local councils will also ensure that those supported by the service ‘have somewhere suitable to go after their detox period has been completed’, states PHE. 

‘The window for helping those with addictions can often be incredibly small and ensuring immediate access to appropriate detoxification and treatment can be life changing,’ said London mayor Sadiq Khan. ‘The health issues experienced by people who are homeless are often complex and entrenched, and there are no quick fixes.’

‘We are delighted to have been able to lead on the creation of this fantastic new unit that will provide life-changing and life-saving treatments to some of London’s most vulnerable homeless people,’ added head of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at PHE London, Alison Keating. ‘Joint working with some of the city’s leading organisations has helped us to provide this avenue off the streets and out of addiction. We will continue to work across organisational boundaries to build on this innovation and make a real and sustained difference to London’s most vulnerable populations.’

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