An insight into the tough world of providing healthcare to Norfolk’s addicts, sex workers, and homeless

Service users hold their monthly meeting too discuss how improvements and ideas can make the service

Service users hold their monthly meeting too discuss how improvements and ideas can make the service work better. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

They live on the edge of normal society, but they have health needs just like everyone else. So who helps them?

It was when alcohol addict Graham Culyer tried to overdose on painkillers that he knew he needed help.

Meanwhile homeless Scot Donald Lane found himself being turned away by GPs because of his lifestyle.

And 'Iris', an escort in Norfolk, was at a loss as to where to turn when one of her customers began a campaign of hate against her.

The trio all found help in one of the county's least known but most valuable services.

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City Reach, based at Westwick Street, Norwich, has been credited as a life-saver by many of its users, but not many tax payers will know what it is. The service, run by Norfolk Community Health and Social Care NHS Trust (NCH&C), acts as a GP practice with most of the patients being homeless.

But City Reach also provides healthcare to other people living on the edge of society, such as drug and alcohol addicts, sex workers, travellers and asylum seekers.

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Crucially the services are all free. The lifestyle of some of the patients throws up different challenges for the staff at City Reach, but service users also get to have their say on the way care is provided to them.

Kevin Hamer, service manager at NCH&C, said: 'For example, our service users have low levels of literacy so some of them can't read the leaflets on which information about us is printed. Or perhaps they struggle to get on time to appointments simply because they don't know what time of day it is.'

To ensure City Reach truly reaches out to its hard-to-access service users a group has been set up where patients come together to air the issues, problems and concerns they have when getting healthcare.

'The service users come in to talk about how we can improve the pathway,' Mr Hamer said.

'It's to make sure our services are good enough. We have launched a new chatroom online for the service users and our group meets monthly.'

The service has been praised by former alcohol addict Mr Culyer, who said his life was '600pc' better since he began getting treatment.

An escort, who simply wanted to be known as 'Iris', said she relied on part of the service, known as The Matrix, for sexual health treatment and advice on how to deal with difficult customers.

And Mr Lane, who took class A drugs for several years, also told the EDP how much City Reach has helped him, but added more information should be given to potential patients about the services offered.

For more information about City Reach and the services it provides call 0800 028 7174 or 01603 612481, email or go to the service's headquarters at Under 1 Roof, Westwick Street, Norwich, NR2 4SZ.

Have you got a health story? Email

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