Stephen Robertson

Healthcare support for the homeless

May 5, 2016

Homelessness in Lambeth

The number of homeless families living in Lambeth had reached more than 1800 by the end of 2015. A count of the number of homeless people living on the streets which took place in November 2015 found that there were 29 people sleeping rough, although this figure represents only those who are visible, and doesn’t take into account those the large number who sleep on public transport and in hidden locations. It’s a challenging situation, which is even more challenged by the fact that it is reckoned a further £5m needs to be found by Lambeth Council to secure accommodation and provide services.

What can be done?

Providing healthcare for the homeless is critically important. A 2012 Deloitte study, Healthcare for the Homeless – Homelessness is bad for your health, characterised ill health experienced by the homeless as ‘tri-morbidity’, or physical ill health, mental ill health and substance abuse. “Long-term homeless people often die at a much younger age than the general population and have a much poorer quality of life,” says Dr Ross-Dyer-Smith who heads the practice at The Riverside Medical Centre and leads the campaign to promote the wider use of online services.

“By freeing up time for GPs to visit homeless centres a significant capability will be released to such charities as Pathway which already works hard on a national level to transform health outcomes for one of the most vulnerable and deprived groups in our society.

“By getting more patients to book consultations online and to use the wider services available via the Internet we can create a space in working time for GPs, allowing them to create opportunities for healthcare support for the homeless.”

The Lambeth GP Federation campaign has been given the enthusiastic support of Stephen Robertson, the CEO of The Big Issue Foundation, the organisation which helps homeless people to secure their own income and build back their lives.

“The National Health Service is difficult to access for people without a fixed address and, because of their generally unpredictable lifestyles, homeless people tend to neglect their health and seek help at a much 
later stage in an illness.

“While there are a number of NHS and charitable services across the country dedicated to providing healthcare and other support to the homeless, half of homeless services have experienced funding cuts. If a way can be found to release more time for GPs to provide more healthcare support to the 2,000 rough sleepers in England and more than 40,000 people living in hostels and other temporary accommodation then we will quickly find ourselves in a much better place.”