Doc­tors’ cri­sis alert as toll of home­less us­ing A&E rock­ets

Daily Express - - News - By Hanna Geissler Health Re­porter

THE num­ber of home­less peo­ple seek­ing emer­gency care has more than tripled in eight years, say doc­tors.

They warn of a “home­less­ness health cri­sis” as hos­pi­tals cope with rock­et­ing de­mand.

More than 36,000 peo­ple of no fixed abode at­tended ca­su­alty wards in Eng­land in the 12 months to April.

This was up from 11,305 in 2010-11, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

Its spokesman Dr Si­mon Walsh said the num­ber was the tip of the ice­berg.

He said: “These fig­ures are soul-de­stroy­ing and show the needs of home­less peo­ple con­tinue to be ig­nored and the im­pact on hos­pi­tals is not un­der­stood.

Al­co­hol

“That be­ing said, it will, sadly, not come as a sur­prise to many doc­tors who see the harsh re­al­ity of home­less­ness in emer­gency de­part­ments ev­ery day.”

Mem­ber­ship magazine The Doc­tor ob­tained the data from 98 hos­pi­tal trusts.

The num­ber of home­less pa­tients ad­mit­ted also soared dur­ing the pe­riod – at least 11,986 com­pared with 3,378 in 2010-11.

Dr Walsh said more re­sources were needed to en­sure vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple got spe­cial­ist care.

He added: “In re­cent years com­mu­nity ser­vices have be­come rad­i­cally over­stretched, mean­ing more home­less peo­ple are over­looked or left to fend for them­selves. “When they are ill or in need, emer­gency de­part­ments be­come the net to catch them.”

Home­less peo­ple ac­counted for more than 16,000 “bed days” last year. Hun­dreds spent long pe­ri­ods on wards and 49 trusts re­ported that such pa­tients had been in hos­pi­tal for more than three weeks.

At Oxleas NHS Foun­da­tion trust in south-east London, 14 pa­tients stayed for a to­tal of 1,617 days. A pa­tient at Not­ting­ham Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tals NHS Trust stayed 462 days.

Dr Christophe­r Sargeant, a GP at a prac­tice for the home­less in Brighton, said: “Home­less pa­tients can of­ten seem in­vis­i­ble, or be some­one else’s problem but their needs are just as im­por­tant. “I have seen the enor­mous dif­fer­ence that joinedup work­ing and ef­fec­tive co-or­di­na­tion of ser­vices has had lo­cally.

“How­ever, ser­vices such as help with men­tal health, over­com­ing drug and al­co­hol de­pen­dence and hous­ing have been cut. It means in­creas­ing num­bers go­ing to a surgery and with in­creas­ingly com­plex needs.”

Alex Bax, of home­less health­care char­ity Path­way, said: “Home­less pa­tients face the very worst health in­equal­i­ties in our so­ci­ety.”

A woman liv­ing un­der a fly­over in Manch­ester is car­ried on a stretcher to an am­bu­lance

Dr Si­mon Walsh says A&E is a net for vul­ner­a­ble

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