Headlines: May 28th, 2012

More than 70 per cent of homeless people are being discharged from hospital back onto the streets, damaging their health and costing the NHS money. This is a key finding from a report from Homeless Link and St Mungo’s.

The report gives guidance on improving hospital admission and discharge for people who are homeless. It explains that hospitals must identify people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Frontline staff need to ask the right questions to find out if a patient is homeless or at risk of homelessness.

NHS staff should involve key partners immediately, e.g. hostels, outreach teams, local authority housing teams. Every ward should have access to the homeless persons’ database and a list of up-to-date local homelessness agencies, and should notify these contacts when they admit someone who is homeless to avoid them losing their tenancy.

Local authorities, NHS and the voluntary must sector must work together, finding appropriate housing for homeless people will reduce readmissions to A&E, improve patient experience and save the NHS money.

Charles Fraser, CEO of St Mungo’s and a member of the National Inclusion Health Board, said: “It is crucial that the NHS does not lose sight of its responsibilities towards those in the most parlous circumstances. This report must not only prod its conscience, but stir it into action. The hospital sector has to improve, and improve quickly, but we must not lose sight of the fact that better facilities in the community will help hospitals get their discharge practices right. There are examples of what can be done, and proposals for what else needs to be done, and the funding and commissioning system must support and enable them.”

Commissioned by the Department of Health, the report was produced to inform the National Inclusion Health Board and delivers the Ministerial Working Group on Homelessness commitment to identify what more must be done to prevent people at risk of rough sleeping being discharged from hospital without accommodation.