Research has consistently shown the poor health of rough sleepers and those living in hostels, 73% have a physical health need; with 35% attending A&E in the past six months, and 26% being admitted to hospital. (Homeless Link’s ‘The Unhealthy State of Homelessness’ 2014). This results in both poor health outcomes for individuals and a high cost to the NHS.
Common barriers to accessing healthcare include:
- Health being a low priority for both homeless individuals and services who support them
- Not being aware of what services exist and how to access them
- Inflexible services that are difficult for people with chaotic lifestyles to access
- Having multiple health issues with no co-ordination around care for different conditions
- Feeling that there is a stigma around homelessness and that healthcare staff have a lack of empathy
- Not being able to afford travel costs
- Bad experiences in the past leading to a lack of trust in the ‘system’
Groundswell’s Health Work
Since 2003 Groundswell has been involved with health work, working with Health Link, the Queen’s Nursing Institute, St Mungos Broadway and Westminster PCT to look at homeless people’s experiences of health care, what barriers they faced and how they felt services could be more accessible. From this research we developed our Homeless Health Peer Advocacy service, and with funding from the NHS Regional Innovation Fund HHPA was launched in 2010. The intervention proved to be a huge success and has continue to develop and grow.