Hospitals send 70% of homeless back to streets
Hospitals discharge more than 70 per cent of homeless people straight back onto the streets, according to a report published today.
The Department of Health-commissioned research concludes if NHS staff helped ensure homeless people had somewhere to go when they left hospital they would save the NHS money.
Umbrella group Homeless Link and homelessness charity St Mungo’s produced the report from an in-depth study of 85 homeless people, hospitals, local authorities and homelessness agencies.
The report Improving Hospital Admission and Discharge for People who are Homeless was published today as the care services minister Paul Burstow visited a dedicated homeless team at University College Hospital in London.
Mr Burstow said: ‘We commissioned this report to expose poor practice and share best practice.
‘What it reveals is too many hospitals simply discharging homeless people back to the streets. Patching a person up and sending them out without a plan makes no sense.’
UCH is cited as an example of good practice in the report providing a dedicated team that works with homeless patients reducing total bed days related to homeless people’s admissions by a third, and making cost savings of £100,000.
The report is to act as a guide for hospital staff and suggests:
- NHS hospitals identify people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless
- NHS staff involve key partners immediately, such as hostels, outreach teams, and local authority housing teams
- Local authorities, NHS and the voluntary must sector must work together to find appropriate housing for homeless people to reduce readmissions to A&E, improve patient experience and save the NHS money.
The report will inform the national inclusion health board, set up by the government two years ago to improve the health of marginalised groups such as the homeless.
Matt Harrison, interim chief executive of Homeless Link, said: ‘The homeless sector has been working to improve the health outcomes for homeless people for years, yet they still experience some of the poorest health in our communities.
‘The findings from this report are extremely disappointing. Failing to meet homeless people’s health and housing needs is costly to individuals, but also to the NHS as life on the streets means they continue to be readmitted to hospital.’
Charles Fraser, chief executive of St Mungo’s and a member of the national inclusion health board, said: ‘It is crucial that the NHS does not lose sight of its responsibilities towards those in the most parlous circumstances.
‘This report must not only prod its conscience, but stir it into action. The hospital sector has to improve, and improve quickly, but we must not lose sight of the fact that better facilities in the community will help hospitals get their discharge practices right.’
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