The majority of people experiencing homelessness struggle to live well and often, sadly, do not live long. The average life expectancy of a person who is sleeping rough is 47 years – 30 years less than the average life expectancy in the UK, and closer to the life expectancy in Sierra Leone. Homeless people often live with multiple health issues including drug and alcohol addiction, mental health problems and high rates of infection, not to mention the musculoskeletal problems, poor hygiene and poor nutrition that can occur as a result of living on the streets.
The Queen's Nursing Institute manages a Homeless Health Project, currently funded by The Monument Trust, with the aim of improving the health of those who are experiencing homelessness. The project works by equipping nurses with the right skills and knowledge to improve care. Patients experiencing homelessness can present with a history of extremely complex emotional and physical trauma. As such, engagement with services is a gradual process, beginning with a change in attitude, and the building of trust between nurse and patient. Community nurses provide outreach services at hostels, prisons and day centres in efforts to improve access and engagement with health services. Therefore they are ideally placed to build relationships with local housing and voluntary organisations, to support patients medically and socially and to prevent unnecessary use of acute medical services such as A&E.
The project is supported by a network of over 700 health professionals who work with vulnerable groups. Their views on the greatest health related problems facing those who are experiencing homelessness have been collated into a summary report. The survey covers the demographics of the healthcare teams, the most common health problems faced by patients, access to services, hospital discharge, suggested improvements and training or support that the network members would like to receive.
For more information contact the Queen's Nursing Institute.