Pathway is the UK’s leading homeless healthcare charity, helping the NHS to create hospital teams to support homeless patients. Each team includes a specialist GP, nurses, allied health professionals, housing experts and in some hospitals, Pathway Care Navigators: people who were once homeless who we train to support homeless patients.
Pathway teams provide patients with:
- Housing and benefits advice
- Help to recover important documents such as birth certificates, passports etc
- Links to community services
- Support and collaboration with other clinicians e.g. advice on drug interactions
- Complex care planning and discharge liaison
- Referral for addictions support
- Help with GP registration
- Fresh clothes, shoes and other basics (for example where these have been destroyed because of infection/infestation)
- Help to reconnect with loved ones
Pathway has supported 11 hospitals to create homeless healthcare teams, helping over 3500 patients every year. Many of the people they support have complex combinations of physical illness, mental illness and substance misuse problems, and histories of trauma and abuse.
In some areas Pathway teams can access specialist ‘respite care’, a place for homeless patients to recover after they’ve been in hospital, with clinical support on hand, relieving pressure on hospital bed spaces.
Pathway teams also provide a friendly smile, chance to chat, and everyday treats like a chocolate bar, hospital TV card or book. A small donation to our Dignity in Care Fund can really brighten someone’s day.
Everything we do is to help homeless patients get life back onto a better ‘Pathway’.
Why is Pathway needed?
“On the streets every day was a struggle – getting food, somewhere to sleep. The days felt empty and endless, pointless. I could feel my mental health collapsing, and eventually my body did too”
Life on the streets is hard; being homeless is extremely bad for your health. Disease rates can be ten times higher than those found in the housed population. Getting ill can also be a trigger for homelessness, through losing your job, or struggling to manage life with a mental health or addiction problem.
Pathway was founded to show that homelessness is a healthcare problem. Good health services have a vital part to play in helping people with their health, but they can also help patients address the problems that led them to the street.
Homeless patients attend A&E six times as often as housed people. They are admitted to hospital four times as often and stay twice as long. This is because they are two to three times sicker when they arrive.
Without an address it’s hard to register with services. Homeless people go to A&E because their health has deteriorated to the point of emergency, and they have no other options.
“You say you did your job . . . but you also rebuilt my life”
With our help one central London hospital, UCLH, helped over half of the homeless people who were admitted to find somewhere to live, and reduced the number of days homeless patients had to stay in hospital by 11%. We reduced total ‘bed-days’ taken by homeless patients by nearly one third.
Training and Research
Pathway provides continuing professional development to over 500 professionals across the country every year. Our conferences, training days, networking meetings and journal papers help health and social care professionals understand homeless health, and stay abreast of the latest developments.
We train formerly homeless people to work in the NHS and support Experts by Experience, formerly homeless people, to speak up about their healthcare experiences and concerns.
Pathway carries out research into homelessness and health to help improve services for our patients. We provide advice and support to NHS Trusts, clinical colleagues, and healthcare commissioners about assessing new services, and consulting homeless patients.
The Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health
The Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health is a growing network of health professionals working with:
- Homeless people
- Vulnerable migrants
- People selling sex
- Gypsy and traveller communities
The Faculty has published national standards for health services (endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians), offers multi-disciplinary CPD, runs an annual international symposium, and supports a network of regional homeless healthcare hubs and special interest groups.