Research discovers insufficient support in healthcare for the homeless in the UK

A recent study led by the experts from the University of Birmingham accessed UK health services, and the results revealed mortifying incidence of neglect and discrimination towards the homeless.

For the study, experts interviewed 22 homeless people. They belonged to the three Midland homeless shelters and were aged over 18. The study accessed their experiences with NHS services. The results concluded that the homeless were being denied access and they faced difficulties while assessing NHS services.

With regards to anecdotal accounts of impediments and casual neglects, some also spoke of incidence of discrimination, inadequate resources, insufficient provisions in departments of accident and emergency, general practice and mental health services.

The report also suggest of cases where the homeless were denied registration at a GP and others were discharged from hospitals directly onto the streets, with no suitable access to primary care. Additionally the report also stated that the people were not provided adequate support with substance misuse issues and also with mental health problems.

The participants however described their experience with primary healthcare centers as highly satisfactory, however specialist healthcare centers for the homeless was underfunded.

The study published in the British Journal of General Practice highlighted figures claiming the UK had 320,000 homeless people, in addition to a twofold increase in the number of rough sleepers in some urban areas in the past six years.

In connection with the study, Senior Lecturer Dr Vibhu Paudyal of the University of Birmingham’s School of Pharmacy commented, “Our study participants found access to mental health and substance misuse services often challenging as many have dual diagnoses. While specialist healthcare services that are established across the country offer these patients some comfort, exclusion from healthcare pushed some of our study participants into repeat cycles of homelessness.”

The study also suggested ways to alleviate the plight of the homeless. As quoted by Dr Paudyal, an improvement in inclusivity, prevention and access to healthcare at an earlier stage would be beneficial in minimizing the number of admissions to emergency department as well as in preventing deaths.

The study highlights the fact that one in three homeless people attended the Accident and Emergency department in the preceding 12 months. The number amounted to 60 times the rate of A&E admissions among general population. Collected from the database of Homeless Healthcare Centre in Birmingham city centre, it was revealed that one in eight persons were offered support for substance dependence, while one in five had support for alcohol misuse. In addition, growing number of people affected with infectious hepatitis C was also brought to light.

Experts also emphasized the need for spreading good practice and education among healthcare workers which drew concrete attention to rights and needs of the homeless population.