COLOURFUL displays and bright posters crowd the walls of the waiting area at Luther Street Medical Centre, a welcome respite from the biting cold outside.

And for the 1,000-odd patients who attend the practice each year, for whom the life expectancy is a shocking 43 for men and 47 for women, it is all the more so.

For the past 30 years the Oxford city centre clinic has offered specialist medical care to the city's homeless, and expects to see a rise in numbers in the new year.

Practice manager Stephen Moore, who has worked at Luther Street for seven years, said: "Homelessness can affect any one of us and we get a full range of people.

"A human being walks through the door and it's our job to provide that regardless of who they are. They need to feel that it's safe and accessible, and not feel alienated."

Some 21 staff including four GPs, mental health practitioners, an addiction nurse, a dentist and podiatrist work at the site supporting the city's homeless population, including many staying at next door O'Hanlon House supported by Oxford Homeless Pathways. A total of 85 per cent of patients are men.

Visitors are often grappling with a raft of issues including mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction and 'chaotic behaviour' impacting their health.

National averages suggest those experiencing homelessness are eight times more likely to present at A&E and four times more likely to need acute care each year.

Mr Moore said: "We try to keep people alive and get them to understand how to manage their own health issues.

"If someone can move on from getting their healthcare here, we have succeeded."

Staff meet at 8.45am and 1.30am to discuss issues and are trained in conflict management, with CCTV installed in the past few years.

About 50 incidents of abuse or threatening behaviour are recorded each year and Mr Moore said at times the practice felt 'chaotic'.

But every day he also sees a hand-written comment on a whiteboard, based on observations from the Care Care Quality Commission's chief inspector of general practice Steve Field: "Every time I visit Luther Street, I leave with increased hope."

Former patients have gone on to find their feet in Oxford and beyond and occasionally bump into Luther Street staff once they have 'flown the nest'.

Mr Moore said he had recently found himself behind an ex-patient, who previously struggled with a drink problem, in the queue at Waitrose in Witney.

He said: "Three years ago he went to speak to students at Brookes. He said what made him change was 'I wanted to wake up the next day knowing that I had today to live and I would not be hurting anyone today'. He has made something of the future and we have been part of that. It's extremely rewarding."

In the past year the practice has gone from strength to strength, in June becoming just one of three sites in the whole of Oxfordshire to be rated outstanding by the CQC.

Contracts for next year are currently being thrashed out and Mr Moore said discussions were ongoing, but added: "There will still be a need for Luther Street."

For more information on the centre including registration and opening times visit