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Threefold increase in the number of homeless patients visiting A&Es

Threefold increase in the number of homeless patients visiting A&Es

By Valeria Fiore
21 January 2019

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Hospitals have seen a threefold rise in the number of homeless patients presenting to A&Es since 2011, a BMA investigation published today has found.

In 2011, 11,305 homeless people went to A&Es, but by 2018 the figure had risen to almost 32,000.

Health and social care cuts mean the most vulnerable in society are receiving poorer protection from the system.

This is compounded by the fact that homeless patients are suffering from a series of increasingly complex physical and mental health conditions, according to the BMA.

As part of the long term plan, NHS England has allocated £30m to meet the health needs of those with no fixed abode, money that will also be used to improve access to specialist NHS mental health services.

Largest A&E attendances

The BMA analysis found that some hospital trusts recorded the highest A&E attendances since 2011.

These are:

  • Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust London – 1,563% increase
  • South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – 1,125% increase
  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust – 847% increase
  • Stockport NHS Foundation Trust – 310% increase

A spokesperson for Stockport NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We have seen an increase in homeless people visiting our A&E in recent years, which is distressing for the people involved, and puts our services under even more pressure.

‘However, some of the increase in the figures is due to the fact that we are working with partners to correctly identify more homeless people as well. We work hard to identify the housing status of everyone visiting our A&E, and ensure people are not discharged without somewhere safe to stay.

Working closely with partner agencies such as Stockport Homes (the council’s housing provider) and the homelessness charity H3, we have dedicated advocates who give homeless people the help they need.’

The number of rough-sleepers admitted to hospital also increased, from 3,378 in 2011 to 9,282 in 2018, according to the BMA.

The organisation said the combined cost to the NHS of A&E attendance and hospital admission is an estimated £47m over eight years.

Only two of the 10 ambulance trusts in the country responded to the BMA’s request for data. The two that did respond both reported an increase in the number of cases related to homeless patients.

South-Central Ambulance Service dealt with 1,834 cases related to homeless patients in 2018, while the figure was only 268 in 2015.

The South East Coast Ambulance Service also registered an increase, from 54 in 2014 to 339 in 2018.

‘Victims blamed and stigmatised’

BMA public health medicine committee chair Dr Peter English said: ‘If this was some disease causing all these problems it would be a much higher priority but because victims can be blamed and stigmatised it is easy for Government to ignore.

‘The growing numbers of rough sleepers and vulnerably housed people in our society is a continuing tragedy. To stand by silently as our NHS faces increasing strain and our society becomes increasingly unequal would be unacceptable.’

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