Homelessness is on the rise in the UK and, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of emergency department (ED) attendances and admissions by homeless people. Those attending the ED will often have multiple unmet health, housing and social care needs. While it is not possible to meet all these needs in the ED, emergency nurses should be equipped with the knowledge and skills required to communicate with, refer and signpost patients who are homeless.
Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, ED staff have a duty to refer homeless people, with their consent, to local authorities for assistance. This article details the barriers that homeless people may experience when accessing healthcare services and explains how these can be addressed. It also outlines the actions that emergency nurses can take to improve the care of homeless people in the ED at an individual and a systems level.
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