Dave Woodley works at Groundswell as a Care Navigator, supporting people experiencing homelessness in Westminster to access health care. Here he shares a behind-the-scenes view into a recent day.
I am awoken at 6:30am by the sound of a message on my work phone – it’s a message from a former client who wants to know if I have watched the UFO video he sent me a few days before. I decide there is no point going back to bed, and I have a busy day ahead of me.
I make my way to pick my client Quentin up from a hostel in Westminster. He has a very important appointment about his cataract surgery today. When I arrive, reception inform me he was seen leaving a couple of hours ago. Not a good start. Luckily, I find him by Victoria station, and we make our way to the hospital.
This is Quentin’s third attempt at getting cataract surgery – the first time the doctor couldn’t operate using local anaesthetic as the cataracts were so dense. At the second attempt, three months later, the doctor wasn’t willing to go ahead with general anaesthetic as Quentin had taken his prescribed methadone prior to his admission. Third time lucky!
Passed from pillar to post
At the hospital, I accompany Quentin to see the nurse who explains that all the eye tests they conducted last time must be repeated. Quentin isn’t happy as it means a lot of waiting around, but luckily I’m here with him. We watch ‘This Morning’ and chat as he goes in and out for various tests. I call my other clients to let them know this is going to overrun.
We eventually get to sit down with the doctor to discuss the third attempt at surgery. Quentin’s test results show his vision has got worse over the last six months, and he is now totally blind in one eye and only has 20% vision in the other. I explain to the doctor that Quentin is in a temporary health bed (with a maximum 6 week stay) and needs this procedure urgently.
The doctor asks me if I could accompany Quentin to the surgery in three days’ time – I’ll have to juggle things around, but I can do it.
I ask the doctor about what we should do about Quentin’s methadone as we didn’t want the same problem to happen again. She says we have to speak to a nurse and get bloods and an ECG taken. We have already been at the hospital for four hours and it will be a long wait to see the nurse. Quentin is not keen on staying at all, but I persuade him to go and grab a sandwich and chat some more to pass the time.
Getting the bloods taken is an ordeal, involving a trip to paediatrics to see a specialist who manages to get a sample. It’s another long wait in cardiology for the ECG, and before we know it it’s 5pm and we’ve been here almost 7.5 hours. By the time we finally meet with the nurse, Quentin is really struggling as he hasn’t had his methadone yet and is in withdrawal.
A breakthrough, and a bottle of vodka
I negotiate with the nurse, and they eventually decide that Quentin can be admitted the night before his surgery so he can get his methadone and be monitored. He’s going to get his surgery!
It’s been a long day. Quentin was brilliant, and I wonder if he would have ever managed to have the surgery without my support jumping through the many hoops involved.
As I’m walking for my bus home, I bump into another client who I was supposed to see earlier. He is intoxicated, drinking a bottle of vodka. We chat about his drinking. He starts crying and I take him to a coffee shop. I need one as much as he does.
Its nearly 7pm by the time I say goodbye. I get my work phone out to turn it off for the weekend and see another video about UFOs from my old client. I watch them on the bus on the way home – they help me to switch off. Not sure if this is why he sends them to me, but it works.
Find out more
Groundswell offers Homeless Health Peer Advocacy for a range of physical and mental health issues. To find out what we can offer and how to refer,
read our HHPA London page or email [email protected].
We have partners operating HHPA services in various parts of the country. If you would like to explore having a similar service in your area you can find out on our information page.