Hundreds of homeless people attending A&E departments
Charities have urged the Government to do more to improve health services for vulnerable people and provide stable homes for rough sleepers as figures show hundreds of homeless people attended A&E at Good Hope, Heartlands and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals last year.
NHS Digital data obtained by RADAR reveals 200 emergency visits to University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust - the overall trust for the three hospitals - had a diagnosis of homelessness in the year to March.
The trust figures, which are rounded to the nearest five, cover patients where the primary or secondary cause of admission was homelessness.
Across England, emergency admissions linked to homelessness rose significantly in the four years before the coronavirus pandemic, from 11,300 in 2016-17 to 16,700 in 2019-20.
However, this number fell back to 12,000 in 2020-21 amid efforts to get people off the streets and into emergency accommodation through the Everyone In initiative during the pandemic.
What needs to be done to help homeless people?
Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at homelessness charity Crisis, said the drop in admissions last year "is one of the success stories of the pandemic".
He added: “We have an opportunity now to continue and build on this progress.
"A room in a B&B or hotel is not a home, and we need continued cross-government action to tackle the housing crisis if we want to ensure these figures do not revert back to the escalating numbers we were seeing prior to the pandemic."
What health problems do homeless people suffer?
Abuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as mental health problems, are among the most common reasons for hospital admissions among homeless people nationally, the figures show.
Homeless Link said many vulnerable people have had such negative experiences when accessing health care that they put off seeking help until they’ve reached crisis point.
Rick Henderson, the charity’s CEO, called on the Government to scale up Housing First services – where rough sleepers are given their own home and intensive support – and invest in a pilot programme developing specialist mental health services for those experiencing homelessness.
"We also need to create more hospital teams which bring together different disciplines to provide holistic, long-term support to those who do need emergency care, with the aim of reducing the likelihood of them returning to A&E unnecessarily," he said.
What has the government said about high numbers of homeless people accessing A&E services?
A Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities spokeswoman said more than two-thirds of the 37,000 vulnerable people supported through the Everyone In initiative have moved into longer-term accommodation.
She said: “Rough sleepers are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and the Government is committed to ending rough sleeping once and for all.
“We recently announced £66 million to provide somewhere safe and warm for rough sleepers to stay this winter and help those in trapped in drug and alcohol addiction.
"This is on top of the £30 million we are investing in specialist mental health services for people sleeping rough.”
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