Homelessness health audit exposes service gaps

A government-backed audit of single homeless people in three areas has uncovered significant health needs but gaps in provision to meet them.

Umbrella body Homeless Link is developing the web-based audit tool, which involves surveying homeless clients about their health needs and services they receive, to ensure primary care trust commissioning strategies address needs and tackle gaps in provision.

A pilot of the tool in three PCT areas found 81% of clients had experienced one or more physical health problems over a number of years, the most common being sleep (60%), muscular (33%) and dental (33%) problems.
Seventy three clients were surveyed in day centres in Southampton, Leeds and Wigan.

Service gaps

While 79% were registered with a GP, just 22% were registered with a dentist, despite the prevalence of dental problems. While 36% said they had a diagnosed mental health problem, just 11% said they received help from a specialist mental health worker. Twenty three per cent said they received support for alcohol problems but only a third of this group said this met their needs.

Head of policy for Homeless Link Alice Evans said: “Essentially the health needs of homeless people have never been collated on a consistent basis. Often they get missed out. We are trying to provide strong evidence of the full range of health needs so areas can see where they need to respond.”

The tool is now being piloted across nine PCT areas – one per region – and Homeless Link is hoping to roll it out nationally later this year. The project is being overseen by a national steering group comprising representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Communities and Local Government, PCTs and local authorities.

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