Bath nurse wins top accolade for innovative homeless project

Claire Coleman (right) with foot practitioner Lynne van Raalte.

A nurse from Bath has won a top award for her work helping homeless people keep their feet clean and healthy.

Claire Coleman, a Homeless Health Outreach Nurse from the Heart of Bath Medical Partnership, received the Innovation Award from the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) for her Best Foot Forward project.

The project was set up by Claire last year, with an initial year’s funding of £4,400 from the QNI, and has seen Claire and a specialist foot health practitioner run regular sessions at Bath’s Julian House hostel to help the city’s homeless people look after their feet.

Claire explained: “Homeless people often have a lot of problems with their feet. They do a lot of walking, have poor footwear and often don’t take off their shoes at all, especially if it’s cold. They can also have trouble washing their feet and keeping them clean.

“We run daily sessions at Julian House where people can come in to soak their feet and give them a clean, but the funding for the Best Foot Forward project has also meant that, once a month, we have a specialist foot health practitioner visit Julian House.

“We clean their feet, trim their toenails, and treat their corns, calluses and blisters. We also run a sock exchange, where we provide clean, new pairs of socks to those who want them.”

The project had also led to many homeless people receiving additional support that they needed.

“People come in to have their feet cleaned but they talk to us about all sorts of different things and problems they may be facing,” said Claire. “It’s this engagement that helps us to identify other additional support that they may need.”

Claire said it was an honour to receive the QNI Innovation Award, which was presented to her by actor Stephen McGann, Dr Turner in the hit TV show Call the Midwife.

“It was great – it’s quite an accolade, so I felt very privileged to receive it. I always hoped that the project would be a success but I underestimated the positive effect it has had on so many people’s lives.”