Fight to save St Albans homelessness nurse continues

SUPPORT is continuing to grow for a nurse specialising in dealing with the homeless in St Albans whose post looks likely to be axed.

Although NHS Herts, which employs the nurse Marion Sklar, says she is retiring and not being forced out of her job, she is understood to be happy to continue in post after retirement age because of the benefits it brings to the homeless.

A petition signed by hundreds of people who use and are involved with Open Door, the hostel for the homeless in Bricket Road, St Albans, has been drawn up calling for Marion to remain in her job.

And this week their call was backed by Peter Graham, chairman of Centre 33, the St Albans drop-in centre for homeless people, who said their understanding was that she would be very willing to stay on after reaching retirement age.

Mr Graham said that in a report prepared by the Primary Care Trust – the forerunner of NHS Herts – in 2009, the work that she did with the homeless in St Albans was spoken of “very positively.”

It highlighted her understanding of the problems of the homeless and how she had the time to build up a rapport with them and ensure they saw a GP when needed. Her work also reduced the demands placed on GPs, A&E and the ambulance service.

He pointed out that there was a range of factors which made it difficult for homeless people to access health support such as having no address, the lack of a telephone and complicated and hard-to-manage health problems.

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Mr Graham said: “We are very worried that this service may be under threat. We understand that the post is under review but we believe that removing the post would be a false economy as well as detrimental to the health interests of a most vulnerable part of our community.”

But even though Centre 33 had written to NHS Herts, Herts Community Health Services and St Albans district council about the review, they had received no response to date.

Mr Graham’s comments were echoed by Jean Day, a volunteer at Centre 33, who said that Marion wanted to stay on because of her concern about the welfare of the homeless.

She added: “She saves the NHS a lot of time and money by offering an essential service and a lot of vulnerable people feel that they can go to her with their problems, health and otherwise.”

NHS Herts refused to add anything more to their statement of last week which said that Marion was of retirement age and was not being forced out of her job but she might not be replaced on a like-for-like basis.