Designing better mental healthcare facilities

Mobile health clinic’ screening 10,000 vulnerable people annually

A high-tech, mobile health clinic is being used to improve screening, testing, and treatment, of around 10,000 vulnerable, homeless and high-risk people in London every year, says University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which has deployed it.

The 'Find and Treat' ‘clinic-on-a-van’, part of NHS Digital’s Future Wireless Project trials, and aims to tackle a wide range of infectious and chronic diseases by screening, diagnosing, and treating conditions such as: tuberculosis, COVID-19, Hepatitis B and C, HIV, cardiovascular issues, STIs, and flu. It was recently fitted with a range of hi-tech tools and software to enable real-time remote diagnosis and referrals on board. Technology includes a digital portable X-ray camera, artificial intelligence software, a tele-radiology network to allow remote reading of X-rays using the trials flat-pack satellites, 4G and 5G routers, roaming SIM cards, and ‘smart antenna systems’. 

Other trials included in NHS Digital’s Future Wireless Project Trials are aimed at improving connectivity in remote areas – with emerging wireless technologies, such as 5G and Low Earth Orbit satellites (which improve signal strength and allow for faster message transmission) – being used by remote healthcare workers in digitally isolated health centres to improve care. Another trial is investigating the benefits of a faster and more reliable 5G network in hospitals, with virtual reality, augmented reality, and electronic observation technologies being trialled.

Patrick Clark, NHS Digital’s director of Infrastructure Services (pictured), said: “We want technology to be used to help make healthcare accessible for everyone and reliable, and high-speed connectivity is vital to enabling that. The multiple wireless connectivity options on board UCLH’s high-tech Find and Treat mobile unit are enabling sophisticated digital solutions to be used to help vulnerable patients get diagnoses quickly and easily without needing to visit a hospital. We’ll be monitoring the impact of the Find and Treat scheme in London, and considering how such initiatives might be successfully adopted elsewhere to reach those least able to access healthcare.”

“As well as the Find and Treat service, our other Future Wireless Project Trials are looking at how emerging wireless technologies could be used by healthcare workers in digitally isolated hospitals and health centres to improve care.”

Find and Treat’s team of peer workers, who have lived experience of homelessness, help build trust and understanding with a patient group suffering from diseases of poverty and inequality. During the pandemic, the team also provided COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to people experiencing homelessness. 

Ousainou Sarr, Find and Treat Outreach worker, was diagnosed with TB by the service in 2011, after losing his job and living on the street. He now uses his past experience of homelessness, and diagnosis through Find and Treat, to encourage people currently facing homelessness to access the service.  He said: “People sleeping rough are very vulnerable to TB. I encourage them to be screened on board the van, and explain the benefits to them – the service can screen people with X-rays, provide diagnoses on the spot, and, most importantly, follow up with people to make sure they get the treatment they need. I can't thank Find and Treat enough for the service it provides to the homeless. If it wasn’t for Find and Treat, I wouldn't be here today.”



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