A coalition of homeless health experts are calling upon Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt to help homeless hospital patients ahead of the new Homelessness Reduction Act.
78% of people who are homeless have one or more health problems, but fragmented NHS IT systems struggle to recording patient’s housing status or alert housing departments to homeless patients. In some cases patients have been discharged straight from hospital to sleep on the streets.
The average age of death for a homeless man is 47, for a woman it is 43. To help prevent these deaths, and unsafe discharges, homeless health charity Pathway, Crisis, The NHS London Homeless Health Programme and Professor Andrew Hayward, Director of the Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care and the Farr Institute for Health Informatics at University College London are calling for a small change to NHS IT systems, so that people entering hospital are asked where they are living, and if they are at risk of homelessness.
In 2018 the new Homelessness Reduction Act will place obligations on NHS organisations to refer patients who are at risk of homelessness for help. To make this change in time the NHS needs to act urgently to agree a standard way to record housing status.
Alex Bax, Pathway Chief Executive said:
“This simple change could help thousands of people who are homeless and in hospital get the support they need to put life back together, and help prevent many people from becoming homeless.”
Changes to systems are likely to be required ahead of the Homelessness Reduction Act, coming into force next April, which requires public bodies to help people at risk of homelessness. Specialist homelessness nurse Samantha Dorney-Smith said:
“It’s vital that health services support people who are homeless. We want people to know that health services care, and we’re here to help. Without the right support we know that homeless people often face an early death in tragic circumstances.”
Interviews and case studies are available on request
Cat Whitehouse, Communications Officer
020 3447 8780
Notes to Editors
- A letter entitled ‘Making homelessness visible in the NHS’ was sent to The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health on 18th October 2017 (file enclosed).
- The letter was accompanied by a technical note, detailing the change required to NHS IT systems.
- The Homelessness Reduction Act received royal assent on 27th April 2017 and comes into force in April 2018.
- One of the provisions in The Act places a duty on statutory bodies to refer people at risk of homelessness to services that can support them.
Pathway works to improve healthcare for homeless people. The charity has helped the NHS to create teams of doctors, nurses and social care professionals within 11 hospitals across England, supporting over 3500 patients who are homeless every year.
Pathway develops models to facilitate improvements in patient care, carries out research in new and developing areas, provides training for healthcare professionals and supports specialist commissioning.
The charity is also host to The Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health, a network of over 1000 professionals and people with lived experience of exclusion, including vulnerable migrants, people who are homeless, people from gypsy and traveler communities and people who sell sex.