Homeless feet get mobile aid

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Indy Lifestyle Online
South London's first mobile chiropody unit takes to the road this week, with homeless people as top priority.

The van will visit drop-in centres, offering free treatment to people who would not normally tap in to the National Health Service.

'The main problem is that they are a transient population who find it very difficult to access health services, said Phillip Kennedy, the chiropody manager for Optimum Health Services in Lewisham. The trust aims to promote community health services, and the mobile unit is funded by a pounds 70,000 government grant.

Homeless people might not want to go into a health centre for treatment, he said. Yet they often had severe foot problems.

'You can get people with maggots who haven't had checks for years, said Mr Kennedy. Frostbite and rat bites were also big problems among homeless people.

The unit will refer patients to hospital if the treatment cannot be provided on site.

The service will be offered throughout Lewisham and Southwark. Both have hostels for homeless people, but there is no space or equipment in them to provide clinics on site, nor could they predict how many people might need the service at any one time.

'Initially, the mobile unit was almost a humourous suggestion, said Mr Kennedy. 'When we thought about it more, we realised just how practical and useful it would be as a way of getting the service where it was most needed.

He is planning to take the unit to elderly people's day centres, clubs and homes. 'I would be very keen to hear from any groups or day centres who might be interested,' he said.

Phillip Kennedy can be contacted on 071-635 5555.