Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

Adur, Arun and Worthing Councils says more can be done for homeless people

A report examining the health inequalities faced by homeless people and the access to services has been published by a working group of the three Councils.

Homeless people very often have difficulty in accessing services and are more at risk of certain health conditions – Death rates amongst the homeless are high – The average age of death is between 42 to 51 and rough sleeping accelerates the ageing process. Many homeless also face barriers in accessing vital health and other essential services.

Evidence included in the report from formerly homeless people and homeless organisations in the areas revealed that more can be done to improve access to services for homeless people and improve their wellbeing.

In particular, even though homeless people are entitled to free NHS treatment via GP’s and hospitals, street homeless people are 40 times more likely than the general population not to be registered with a GP. Whilst some of this is down to choice other evidence shows that access to GP’s and dentists services for homeless people is problematic and disjointed; due in some cases to the attitude of GP’s and their reception staff who have refused homeless people access to their services.

The report calls on the new Clinical Commissioning Groups to raise awareness amongst GP’s about the needs of homeless people and also asks the Royal College of General Practitioners to spread the message to its members. The report suggests that better access to services can help improve the wellbeing of homeless people and result in lower costs to the NHS through reduced A&E costs which are higher than GP consultations.

The report warns that a lack of ID can be a barrier to accessing services and, therefore, suggests that GP’s and other organisations should sign up to a protocol to accept alternative proof of ID to help homeless people be able to access services.

The report also calls on the three Councils to work together to coordinate further improvements to help the homeless access services.

The report has already been considered by Arun Council’s Overview Select Committee and the recommendations will now be considered by the Adur and Worthing Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 12 January 2012.

Arun Councillor Dr James Walsh, who chaired the Working Group, said:  “Changing circumstances mean that anyone can find themselves homeless. This report highlights issues where improvements can be made to help homeless people access services which are vitally important to help reduce their health inequalities. The report also looks at issues to prevent homelessness in the first place.”

For more information 01903 221009 call Mark Lowe or visit www.worthing.gov.uk to see the report

You can access the report here

http://www.worthing.gov.uk/your-council/decision-makingcabinetcommitteeinformation/joint-overview-and-scrutiny-committee/12january2012/pdffile,86095,en.pdf

Dr Walsh contact number 01903 773771 or 07973 217243