New post will replace axed St Albans homeless nurse

A NEW worker to deal directly with the homeless in St Albans is to be appointed in the wake of a decision last year to push a designated nurse out of her job.

The decision by NHS Hertfordshire not to renew the contract of specially-designated homelessness nurse Marion Sklar which was revealed exclusively in the Herts Advertiser last July caused a storm of protest.

Hundreds of homeless people drew up a petition asking for her to be retained and local GPs called for her to stay because of the valuable liaison work she did.

But NHS Hertfordshire went ahead with the decision to lose the post even though Marion herself was willing to continue in the job despite being past retirement age.

This week St Albans MP Anne Main revealed that a new homeless outreach worker was set to be appointed in the district, jointly funded by the St Albans Community Safety Partnership, the district council and NHS Hertfordshire.

The post, which will be for one year initially, will be managed by Open Door, the homeless housing arm of Hightown Praetorian Housing Trust.

Mrs Main said she had been in discussions with NHS Hertfordshire about the matter since the end of last year when it was raised with her by Centre 33, the St Albans drop-in centre for homeless people.

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She went on: “It is good news that this post is to be advertised and a homeless outreach worker is to be appointed to serve in the local community. Often homeless people can fall through gaps in health and other services and not receive the care that is so vital to them.

“I hope the new outreach worker will be in post soon and help homeless people to access the services which they badly need.”

The district council confirmed this week that funding for the new post was being shared jointly between the Community Safety Partnership and itself with the former paying �15,000 and the later �5,000.

Council leader Robert Donald said: “This is a partnership response because we thought it was an important and useful post. We were talking to the local GPs particularly about this well before Christmas and were trying to find a solution to it which we have done.”

Marion, who received the full support of all the St Albans GPs, had built up the service for the homeless from scratch and was valued by doctors for creating a buffer between homeless people and the health services available to them. They particularly praised the way she dealt with homeless people with mental health problems.

But despite their support, she left her post last September with NHS Hertfordshire saying that if local GPs were keen for the service to continue in the same way then they could fund the role using budgets allocated under practice-based commissioning.