A Birmingham hospice is today launching a service that will ensure people who are homeless in the city receive high quality palliative and end of life care – and bereavement support - that is tailored to their needs.

Birmingham St Mary’s, a teaching hospice that has been caring for people with life-limiting illness for 40 years and providing education and training for healthcare professionals, has set up the Homelessness Support service to work alongside other organisations supporting people who are homeless.

The service will work collaboratively with third sector organisations and NHS teams to grow their understanding, skills and confidence in end of life and palliative care and bereavement support. The team will also provide direct care and advice to individuals and to those close to them.

Two experienced Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice staff will deliver the service: a Clinical Homelessness Link Nurse will be supporting NHS teams, setting up an educational programme for providers and working with hostels in the city to facilitate care for their residents.

A Homelessness Social Worker will work closely with third sector organisations, providing training sessions and helping them establish bereavement peer networks. The social worker will also act as a specialist end of life palliative care advisor to their clients.

The programme, a pilot for 2 years, is funded by the Eveson Trust and three other funders.

Sharon Hudson, Community Development and Partnerships Lead, who is leading the service said:

“We know that Birmingham has the third highest population of people who are homeless in the UK, and that many of that population die prematurely not as a direct result of being homeless but because of complex life-limiting illnesses. Sadly, people who are homelessness often experience barriers when accessing healthcare and support services, so they are often diagnosed, if at all, at a very late stage.

Recognising this need we designed a service to empower providers to recognise palliative, end of life care and bereavement support needs of people who are homelessness in our city - and to develop the skills to support them. We’ve had success using a similar model with care homes and have seen the huge difference it can make individuals and their close networks.

Our mission as a hospice is ‘hospice care for everyone’, no matter who they are or where they are. This is a much needed service for people in our city, and myself and the team are very keen to get started.”