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NHS Long Term Plan must address shocking health inequalities for homeless people

More than 20 organisations representing nurses, outreach workers and homeless health professionals yesterday (Monday 5 November) joined forces to urge NHS England CEO Simon Stevens to spend more on specialist health interventions for homeless people.

People who are homeless experience some of the worst health outcomes in England, and die 30 years earlier than the general population. 

Following the new £20 billion funding over the next five years announced in the 2018 Budget, the organisations, including St Mungo’s, Homeless Link and the Queen’s Nursing Institute are urging NHS England to use the upcoming Long Term Plan to commit some of this new spending to dedicated specialist interventions. They also want to see a clear plan for how to address the shocking health inequalities that exist at present. 

Rough sleeping has risen by 169% since 2010.  Of the people seen sleeping rough in London in 2017-18, 50% had mental health problems, 43% had alcohol problems and 40% had drug problems. Estimates also put the proportion with physical health conditions at 46%.

Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless Link, said:

“Health problems can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness, in particular rough sleeping. The average age of death for a man that is homeless is 47, and for a woman just 43, which is around a shocking 30 years younger than the average person. Homelessness as a health inequality, which often goes unrecognised, is at the root of this problem and we must urgently address this. Along with our members, we urge the NHS and the government to seize this opportunity to improve the health outcomes for those most desperately in need.”

Howard Sinclair, CEO of St Mungo’s, said:

“A week ago, the Chancellor delivered a budget statement that cemented his pledge for £20 billion for the NHS. We are writing to ensure that this windfall reaches the most vulnerable people in society. 
“We welcome steps in the government’s new rough sleeping strategy to provide more services to quickly help people to come off the streets. But it’s not enough. The NHS plays a key role in supporting people’s recovery from homelessness and we are urging that the Long Term Plan addresses the striking health inequalities that homeless people face every day.”

Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, Chief Executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, said:

“The QNI supports a network of hundreds of nurses who are working with people who are homeless, witnessing every day the impact of rough sleeping on their health. Nurses know that investment into preventative measures and access to services will not only improve, enhance and extend lives but will save the NHS significant sums of money. 

“We recognise the need for a significant shift in approach and for planned investment in addressing the health inequalities of these most disadvantaged members of our communities. It is essential that this intention is reflected in the Long Term Plan for the NHS.”

In addition to calling for £30 million of funding for specialist services, the organisations are urging more flexibility with appointments, ensuring NHS staff have training to improve attitudes to patients who are homeless, and ending the scandal of people being turned away due to a lack of address or a substance use problems.

Read the letter in full here

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Channel website: http://www.homelesslink.org.uk

Original article link: https://www.homeless.org.uk/connect/news/2018/nov/05/nhs-long-term-plan-must-address-shocking-health-inequalities-for-homeless

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