Date: 16 February 2018
A new NIHR study that maps primary health care services for people who are homeless in England finds significant variation in the type of service available, with some areas poorly covered.
Of the 900 homelessness projects (hostels and day centres) that were surveyed by the researchers, only 43% were linked to a specialist primary health care service.
Homelessness projects in smaller towns and rural areas, and those working with young people who are homeless, were much less likely to be served by a specialist primary health care service*.
Information was collected from 243 homelessness projects not linked to a specialist primary health care service about their views and experiences of primary health care arrangements for their clients:
The researchers identified 123 specialist primary health care services, spread across the five NHS England regions. Some were a specialist health centre primarily for people who were homeless, some were mainstream GP practices that provided additional services to people who were homeless, some were a mobile homeless health team that ran clinics in hostels and day centres used by homeless people, and a few were provided by volunteer health staff.
In 29 of the 35 largest cities in England outside London at least one specialist health service was identified. Of the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, only 14 were known to have a specialist primary health care service.
Dr Maureen Crane, the study’s lead researcher, said: “At present there are evidence gaps to guide health service commissioners and providers about the most appropriate types of primary health care services for people who are homeless. Better understanding of the effectiveness of different models in different settings is crucial if their primary health care needs are to be successfully addressed.”
More information on the study is available on the NIHR Journals Library.
* 40% were not covered by such a service, and details were unavailable for 16% of the projects.
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