‘The doctors at Great Chapel Street and Groundswell saved my life’ – says former ICN client Samuel

Samuel* was asked to leave his accommodation due to his growing needs – severe untreated cataracts had left the 40-year-old blind. Due to his immigration status Samuel was not entitled to public funds, eventually leading to a period of rough sleeping in Westminster.

Prior to this, Samuel’s sight had been declining over two years due to undiagnosed type two diabetes which resulted in cataracts in his eyes. It was only when he was admitted to hospital that Samuel was diagnosed, but shortly after he was discharged back to the streets with medication however he couldn’t administer himself because his eyesight had further deteriorated.

Four weeks later Samuel registered as a patient of Great Chapel Street Medical Centre after being bought in by volunteers from a local church-based charity. He was added to the ICN caseload (the Westminster Integrated Care Network) where David, Groundswell’s Care Navigator, immediately referred Samuel to adult social services. He was placed in a night shelter temporarily and a multi-disciplinary meeting was arranged with health and social professionals to complete an action plan, primarily to ensure Samuel’s safety.

Samuel’s GP contacted surgeon’s at Moorfields Eye Hospital to advocate for him to have surgery to remove his cataracts, not only to address this medical issue but to empower him to be able to manage his new diabetic medication. The surgeons agreed due to the risk Samuel was in, rough sleeping and managing serious health problems, however due to his immigration status he would be charged by the NHS for surgery.

With the help of Westminster Commissioners, David sourced a bed space in a hostel for Samuel to recover post-surgery for six weeks. Samuel’s surgery was a success, one of Groundswell’s peer advocates accompanied him to the appointments and the cataracts were removed in both eyes. For the first time in two years he had full vision and was able to care for himself without support.

Samuel’s case has been referred to Doctors of the World and they are supporting him to challenge the charges from the NHS for the operations. He is also working with an immigration worker to apply for refugee status and he remains in accommodation.

Samuel says: “I want to thank everyone so much, when I was on the streets and could not see I had a voice telling me I should die as I could not care for myself. The doctors at Great Chapel Street and Groundswell saved my life. I can see in two eyes! This would not be possible without you all. Thank you!”

*name changed to protect anonymity