More needs to be done to address the heath needs of homeless people across Nottinghamshire, two expert organisations have warned.
A new report, commissioned by The Nottinghamshire County Public Health Directorate, is based on 349 responses from individuals, focus group meetings and a series of one-to-one interviews.
The report shows a clear imbalance between the health status and treatment outcomes for homeless people and those for other members of the community.
Each of the 349 respondents reported having three or more separate health needs, including:
74 per cent who reported mental health symptoms (of whom only 31% had a diagnosis)
38 per cent who were either taking drugs or recovering from a drug problem (this compares to 8.8 per cent of the general population)
18 per cent who reported having an alcohol problem, or were recovering from one
26 per cent who had attended hospital Accident & Emergency departments in last 6 months.
The report also highlights serious deficiencies in the diets of homeless people. 29 per cent of the respondents ate less than two meals per day, and 34 per cent had no fruit or vegetables in their regular diet.
Framework’s Grant Everitt, a member of the Steering Group, said: “The research started life as a fairly modest initiative, but as the sheer number and range of health issues faced by the homeless population became clear its scope widened. Using the toolkit published by Homeless Link, the study has become the UK’s largest ever audit of health needs and treatment outcomes among homeless people.
“As expected we found that many of the respondents had physical health issues.
For instance while only 21 per cent of them had been tested for TB, homeless people are in fact ten times more likely to suffer from it than those in settled housing.
“The lack of appropriate primary care interventions creates the risk of exacerbation and potential crisis. The health community is urged to work closely with homelessness charities and other key partners to prevent this from happening.” Andrew Redfern, Chief Executive of Framework, said: “This is a very important report. Its findings are both shocking and surprising. Indeed they have taken those involved by surprise.
“From speaking to members of the Steering Group I know they expected to find some specific health issues that are more prevalent among homeless people than in the wider community.
“What the report actually shows is that homelessness is very bad indeed for your mental and physical health, to say nothing of its dramatic effect on life expectancy.
“Some key decisions are currently being made about the future of services for homeless and vulnerable people across Nottinghamshire and beyond.
“I have previously stressed that if vital front-line services are closed it will put lives at stake. This research shows precisely why.”