The average age of death for homeless people in England is between 40 and 42 . It is shocking that people are cut down at such a young age on the streets of one of the world’s leading cities – in what is still one of the world’s largest economies.
Homelessness is clearly a health crisis. People are at high risk of developing a complex mix of conditions, ranging from physical and mental ill health, to high levels of drug and alcohol misuse and the effects of social exclusion. They are in desperate need of the person-centred, collaborative care the College seeks to promote.
We see homelessness as a marker of complex health needs and social exclusion. Everyone knows what it is when they see it, yet there are a complex and confusing mix of definitions and situations, from rough sleeping to sofa surfing, hostel dwellers to those in inadequate housing. Decent accommodation is an essential starting point on the road back to good health, but is not a complete solution on its own. Morbidity and mortality rates remain high in hostels and there is continuous movement between sectors.
A new approach
This faculty is the first independent, multi-disciplinary body focused on the healthcare of homeless people. This new approach will allow us to develop care for these extremely vulnerable people wherever they need help – in the community, in acute hospitals, in specialist care such as mental health services.
We will put the patient back at the heart of healthcare, focusing on what the individual wants and needs. The Faculty will cross professional and organisation boundaries to shape care around the patient. And homeless people, patients and service users, will be included in our Faculty and in every level of our work. ‘No decisions about me without me’ applies here just as much as in any area of healthcare.
The aim is to share the learning from the front line – developing and applying practical solutions to improve the health of the homeless. We are working closely with the London Pathway for Homeless Healthcare, based at University College Hospital London. Jointly, we are promoting person-centred and collaborative health care for people with the illnesses associated with poverty and homelessness.
Join our Faculty
The Faculty is offering membership to people with an experience of homelessness and a range of front line professionals including (but not limited to):
• psychologists and other talking therapists
• social workers
• drug and alcohol workers
Working together, the College and the London Pathway are developing a series of short courses, training, and peer education programmes for health and social care professionals working with homeless people. We will reach out to other groups of excluded patients affected by the triple impact of physical and mental ill health and substance abuse and work together to set standards for person-centred care We are currently developing plans for the first annual meeting of the Faculty – further announcements will be made shortly. The members will then shape the future development of their Faculty.
1 – Department of Health, Office of the Chief Analyst, Health Care for Single Homeless People. 22 March 2010
2 – The London Pathway is a service run by a specialist GP, Dr Nigel Hewett and specialist nurse, Tracey Boyce, to co-ordinate care for homeless people across departments at University College London Hospital and to support patients after discharge. Dr Hewett is a member of the College Faculty