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Conference urges NHS commissioners to help the homeless

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Conference urges NHS commissioners to help the homeless

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Published by Brian Church for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Health

Homeless People Homeless People

New NHS commissioners have been urged to invest in services for homeless people and other excluded groups, who are "a population apart" judging by high rates of infectious disease, mental health and mortality.

At the first Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health conference, members asked Commissioners to work with homeless sector organisations and homeless people to design more integrated services.

The failure to tackle people’s health problems is often a contributory factor to homelessness in the first place, the conference heard. New evidence confirms that because the system allows homeless people to get so sick, they end up costing the NHS up to eight times more than people with a home, the faculty said. 

The faculty aims to show colleagues across the NHS that homeless patients deserve the same standards of care and compassion as any other patient and that the NHS should play a leading role in helping overcome the health problems contributing to homelessness in the first place.

The faculty called for:

  • all NHS organisations to adopt the faculty’s core standards for health services for homeless people
  • the Department of Health to ensure that the new health system recognises the costs of failing to properly fund homeless health services.

It also expressed "deep concern" at the likely long-term health consequences of the Government’s welfare reforms, especially the imminent changes to housing benefit. 

Faculty president, Prof Aidan Halligan, said: "Specialist homeless health professionals have often chosen to work with some of the most vulnerable and damaged individuals in British society, and they demonstrate daily how compassion and professionalism can combine to deliver good health outcomes for the most challenging patients, and how services have to focus on the whole person to have any chance of helping homeless patients make progress with their lives."

Stan Burridge, a service user researcher with Pathway and a former rough sleeper, said: "I am still in touch with the individual doctors who played a big part in helping me come off the streets. As homelessness keeps going up, it’s vital that the NHS puts the right services in place."

The Faculty for Homeless and Inclusion Health was established in 2010 and is an independent, multi-disciplinary body focused on the healthcare of homeless people and other excluded groups.  Pathway is a registered charity working with NHS staff to make health services better for homeless people.

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